Dropping of mask has put India in danger zone: Govt

14 people detected with Omicron in India were fully vaccinated.

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With several countries in Europe reported a new surge in Covid-19 cases and Omicron appearing as a highly transmissible variant, the government warned Friday that India has “entered the danger zone” with mask usage in the country dropping to levels below the pre-second wave.

The government said 25 cases of Omicron have been detected so far in the country. According to available data on clinical symptoms, nine cases have been symptomatic and 14 asymptomatic. The government said nine of these persons did not have foreign travel history.

14 people detected with Omicron in India were fully vaccinated, indicating breakthrough infections caused by the new variant — Covishield (8), Pfizer (5) and, Sinovac (1).

Dr V K Paul, head of India’s Covid-19 task force, said the efficacy of vaccines against the new Omicron variant is still being examined. He, however, highlighted that mask usage “is a universal and social vaccine which is effective against any variant”.

“I would like to draw your attention to a reality check, on an assessment of the mask usage presently going on in our country. This comes from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation which does these estimates for several countries. Just before the second surge, mask usage was at a low level. When the cases started to rise dramatically in May, we all responded, and everyone started to wear masks out of fear,” he said.

“In August, we saw a decline. And in December, we have again gone back to the same position. According to this estimate, it has in fact declined even further compared to the March levels. In a way, we have entered the danger zone. Technically speaking, from a protection capability point of view, we are now operating at a low level. This is an unacceptable level. It is a risky level,” he said.

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