Omicron the new avatar of the coronavirus Variant of concern

Variant of concern. This is according to the World Health Organisation. Could resist vaccines and prolong the COVID-19 pandemic. Reported to be more contagious than the other earlier variants and adding more apprehension in the minds of the people is the report that a woman who arrived at India from Botswana some days back remain untraceable, sparking a wild search for the said woman. True to its nature, the new variant of the coronavirus is reported to have spread to at least 14 countries across the world and surely here is a case of deep concern. This is the Omicron variant of the virus and clearly the battle or war against the coronavirus is far from over and one hopes this point is not lost on anyone, most notably the Government of Manipur, the people and the different political parties which have started hitting the streets ahead of the coming Assembly elections scheduled for the early part of next year. The key here is the people. The daily positivity rate has dropped below the 5 percent mark in the last many days, below the mark identified by the World Health Organisation for any country to even think about opening up, but the important point should not be missed here. Manipur has opened up, not because there is the need for the people to come out and mix around freely like before, but for purely economic reasons. How to revive the economy must on top of the agenda of any Government across the world and Manipur is no exception. This is where it needs to be studied why the health experts have called on the people to maintain ‘social distancing’ (that is to keep at least 3 metres apart from each other) though ‘physical distancing’ sounds more apt and correct. This is where the essence of the call to maintain social distancing needs to be understood in its correct perspective. In many ways this may be understood as the call on the people to do away with any activity that may involve socialising where close contact with each other becomes indispensable. The call then is to avoid crowds, stop hosting social dos such as a wedding reception or a community feast or any function where gathering of people becomes indispensable. The question is how sincerely are the people adhering to the call of the experts from across the world to do away with socialising as long as the virus is out there. This question is important for Manipur and her people too. True the daily positivity rate has dropped below the 5 percent mark in the last many days, but the fact stands that the virus is still out there and continues to infect people at will. The death toll too is climbing with each day reporting one or two or three or four deaths. This is a disturbing situation and a point which can be overlooked only at one’s peril.
What is of concern is the report that at least eight people have landed at Manipur in the last few days from Israel, New Zealand, Bangladesh and the United States, countries which have already been categorised as countries at risk of the Omicron variant. Not much is known about the new strain of the virus but if reports coming from across the world are anything to go by then, this new variant is reported to be more contagious. Fortunately no cases of the Omicron variant have been reported from across the country, at least till now, but remember the coronavirus was first detected at Wuhan in China and spread across the world in no time, prompting the World Health Organisation to call it a global pandemic. The world is now a global village and no country is an island and surely the new variant will land in India one day or the other and naturally Manipur too will be affected. How have the people responded to the new development ? How about the Government ? Are the people and the Government satisfied with the fact that fresh cases have seen a sharp drop in the last couple of days along with the daily positivity rate or is the fact that the virus is still out there continuing to infect people at will still registered prominently in their consciousness ? This is a question that needs to be asked now, for remember getting ready for any eventuality, which will become a reality soon, will only work to the advantage of everyone. India and Manipur have already seen and experienced how they were caught on the wrong foot when the second wave of the pandemic hit the country and the Delta variant created havoc all over the place. The people cannot afford another wave of such telling devastation. Now is the time to roll up the sleeves and get ready for any eventuality. 2021 will soon be over and as the world and Manipur step into 2022, one hopes that adequate steps are taken up ahead of any fresh wave. A variant of concern, this is how the World Health Organisation has summed up Omicron. For starters beef up the testing facilities at the airport and different entry points of Manipur. Ramp up the health facilities wherever it is necessary and yes give more teeth to the vaccination drive. Sensitise the people to the new variant, which is of concern, and come to grip with the reality that the new variant too will land at Manipur one day or the other. Can the new variant be the chief mover of the third wave which many experts had predicted earlier ? No clear cut answer yet, but the need for the people to continue with the commandments from the World Health Organisation need not be over stressed. Stay away from large gatherings, wash one’s hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, always wear a face mask while stepping out and get vaccinated. The new normal is here to stay for some time and given the fact that the virus landed here in 2020, the term ‘new normal’ may just be a misnomer for this should now have ideally become the new order of life.