Covid-19 3rd wave: Ensuing month crucial, experts in Kashmir warn major spike in cases

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As parts of the country are witnessing an unprecedented spike in Covid-19 cases, experts in Kashmir say that the ensuing month is very crucial as the region may also witness a spike in the number of infection cases.

Days after Kashmir witnessed major celebrations administered by the government, Valley on Wednesday recorded 883 cases, a 42 percent increase in the infection cases against Tuesday – the second major increase this year till now – taking the tally of active positive cases to 2894 in the region.

While India was witnessing the rise in the cases of COVID-19’s new variant, Omicron, thousands of people – locals and tourists – violated the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and celebrated the new year at the tourist destination in parts of Kashmir. Several students who were camping around tourist destination Gulmarg tested positive.

Experts said that in the coming days Kashmir may witness a major spike in infection cases and warned people to be extra cautious. They urge people to avoid mass gatherings and follow Covid appropriate behaviour.

Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus in Kashmir last year at least 2336 people have died due to the infection. 

In late December the new variant of the virus emerged in the Maharashtra state of India and has been spreading in other parts of the country. The Omicron variant – the fastest spreading variant of Covid-19 – has become the dominant variant in the USA and in many European countries.

The new variant of the virus, Omicron, tally meanwhile, has reached 4,461, with Maharashtra reporting the highest number of cases (1,247), followed by Rajasthan (645) and Delhi (546) as per media reports on Wednesday.

“Spike has started in some parts of the country and we are expecting to see it soon just like it happened in the second wave,” Influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan told The Kashmir Walla

Hassan said that the virus load of the new variant remains for one week and people are reporting false negatives. 

While explaining the reason for people reporting false-negative, he said, “it might be because of inadequate sampling, or people come too early or late for testing after the viral stage is over.”

He said that the behaviour of the new variant is reported to be different from its preceding variants but is not that severe as it has less mortality rate.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, the South African doctor who first alerted authorities to the presence of the new COVID-19 variant, has said muscle aches, fatigue, a scratchy throat and night sweats are common Omicron symptoms.

Experts also believe that the number of infection cases is undercounted as the news variant of the virus has a tendency not to be traced through the conventional mode of testing.

Hassan said that there are many people who do not test positive despite having symptoms of the virus. “That can happen because Omicron can evade the RT-PCR (Real-Time – polymerase chain reaction) test also. We might have more cases than recorded. RT PCR has been devised for the original Wuhan stain and it can miss tracing the new variant”.

Dr Mir Faisal a reputed Pulmonologist in Kashmir said that the Omicron is highly contagious which will result in an increase in the number of the affected but is less severe.

He said that due to winter-related complications among the people, hospitals witness a heavy inflow of patients and if the spread of the virus is allowed it will turn into a mess. 

While talking about the recent massive gathering in parts of Kashmir Faisal said, “the gatherings were uncalled for.

Earlier Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) had urged people to avoid gatherings on the new year to prevent the spread of highly transmissible Omicron variants in the valley as the government administered several functions across Kashmir to celebrate the new year that witnessed mass gatherings.

The association said that three cases of Omicron that have been detected in Jammu had no travel history or contact which gives us to understand that the new variant is possibly already in the community.

“If we do not behave appropriately, we will give the virus a chance to spread in the community which could reignite another outbreak in the valley,” he added.

Health officials say that the people who test positive by Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) are not recorded in the government data while those who test positive by Rt-PCR are only counted.

India on Tuesday reported 1,68,063 new Covid-19 cases and 277 related deaths even as the country’s active count mounted to 8,21,446, as per the data from the Union Ministry of Health. 

Authorities in Kashmir like other parts of the country have started giving booster vaccine doses to people and have started covering the population of age group 15 to 18 years under vaccination drive in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, authorities in the region have also imposed night curbs restricting the movement of the non-essential services.

Sources in the Health Department told The Kashmir Walla that a large number of health workers in Srinagar are either positive or symptomatic including several doctors and medical officers.

In the medical zone SR Gunj in Srinagar district at least fifty per cent of the health workers are either Covod-19 positive or are symptomatic.

“Nodal officer sampling [in the zone] has tested positive, a sweeper, a data entry operator, at least two medical officers including several other health workers have tested positive while their immediate contacts have symptoms,” Zonal Medical officer SR Gunj Dr Shafqat Bhat confirmed to The Kashmir Walla 

Given the spike, in cases in the region Director, Health Services Kashmir on Thursday has impressed upon all Chief Medical Officers, Medical Superintendents and Block Medical Officers that no patient or attendant should be allowed to enter hospital premises unless and until RAT testing is undertaken

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