The emergence of the new Covid-19 Omicron has led to panic across the globe, with several countries reimposing coronavirus measures and restricting international travel. Talking about the threat that this new variant poses, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Executive Chairperson of Biocon, said that getting panicked over a new viral strain is not the right way to tackle the problem.
Speaking to CNBC-TV18, Shaw said, “We should expect newer and new variants to emerge over time. Because I think COVID-19 has become an endemic, and these variants are nothing unusual in these kinds of viruses. So to get panicky over a new viral strain is not the right way to approach this problem.”
The World Health Organization on Monday warned that the Omicron variant poses a “very high” risk globally, despite uncertainties about the danger and contagion levels of the new strain.
Omicron, she said, is a new virus and a new variant with a number of mutations. “But we really don’t know if is it far more virulent. Of course, we know it is far more infectious and transmittable, but is it as lethal as the Delta virus? We don’t know. The data so far suggests that it is, in fact, milder than the data variable. So it looks like as if the virus is mutating into a milder and milder form, or better still, that vaccination has also helped to mute it. So, I don’t think we should panic at this stage. It is an alert, but not an alarm is my view.”
The UN health agency has said that the Covid strain first discovered in southern Africa was a “highly divergent variant with a high number of mutations… some of which are concerning and may be associated with immune escape potential and higher transmissibility.”
Shaw said imposing drastic travel curbs will set fear among people. “I think we should not panic over suddenly coming out with these drastic travel curbs and things like that, because it is just setting fear amongst people. Moreover, you want people to get vaccinated. So, if you are going to start creating a fear factor saying whether you are vaccinated or not, it is not going to protect you I think that is the wrong kind of message to send to the world,” she said.
She added that all governments around the world should stop this panic. “We don’t have enough data and I believe that these variants with the vaccines are easily manageable.”
“The likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high,” WHO cautioned in a technical note.
To date, no deaths connected with the Omicron variant have been reported, it added.
But even if the new variant does not prove more dangerous or deadly than previous ones, if it spreads more easily it will spark more cases and more pressure on health systems, and thus more deaths, the organisation said.