Ahead of polls, Omicron cases rise in India; Here’s what experts say

Assembly elections in five states- Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur are scheduled to be held in early 2022 (February-March). During the same period, Omicron-led third wave is likely to peak in India.

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India has reported 422 cases of the fast-spreading Omicron variant of Covid19, according to official data. Maharashtra has reported the highest number of cases i.e. 108, followed by Delhi with 79 cases.

According to official figures by the health ministry, Omicron has been reported in Gujarat (43), Telangana (41), Kerala (38), Tamil Nadu (34), Karnataka (31) and Rajasthan (22). Patients infected with this new coronavirus variant have been found in 13 states and four union territories - Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, Chandigarh and Ladakh. As per the data, 130 of the 422 patients have been discharged after testing negative.

Amid the rising numbers, India has announced "precaution or booster doses" for front-line workers and those over the age of 60 from January 10, 2022.

In an unplanned address to the country Friday night, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to remain cautious in the wake of the Omicron threat. PM Modi also announced that the nationwide Covid-19 vaccination drive will begin on January 3 for people aged 15 to 18.

Omicron-led third wave to peak in Feb

The third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which will be triggered by the Omicron variant is likely to peak in India by February 3, 2022.

According to a report published in the pre-print repository MedRxiv, the third wave of the pandemic, which could be sparked by the new Omicron variety, "may start around mid-December and peak at the beginning of February."

The third wave has been predicted by a team of IIT-K researchers using a statistical tool called the Gaussian Mixture model.

The report used data from India's first and second COVID waves, as well as the current increase in case tally in numerous countries, driven by Omicron, to predict a possible third wave in the country.

The research team stated that the study they conducted "suggests that after 735 days from our initial observation date, which is January 30, 2020, when India reported its first official case of Covid-19, the cases reach their peak value.

As a result, cases will begin to rise around December 15, 2021, with the third wave peaking on Thursday, February 3, 2022 ".

Nearly half of individuals who tested positive for Omicron were fully vaccinated, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

A bit more than a quarter had no international travel history but had presumably come into contact with infected people. None of those tested exhibited severe disease symptoms and about 73 percent were classified as "asymptomatic." The Union Health Ministry released these figures at a press conference on Friday.

Elections amid Omicron

Assembly elections in five states- Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur are scheduled to be held in early 2022 (February-March). During the same period, Omicron-led third wave is likely to peak in India.

These assumptions have raised tensions among health experts and the top poll body.

The Election Commission of India is scheduled to meet Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Monday. Amid the scare of new covid variant Omicron, the commission will examine the Covid situation as well as the need for stringent safety protocols during the upcoming polls in five states.

The key meet will be held one day before the top polling body's three-day visit to Uttar Pradesh.

The meeting also comes in response to a request from the Allahabad High Court to postpone the state election due to the threat of a third wave of covid infection. The Allahabad High Court on Thursday urged the top poll body to postpone the February-March election. The court also asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to prohibit political rallies.

"If rallies are not stopped, the results will be worse than the second wave," Justice Shekhar Yadav remarked, adding "Jaan hai toh Jahaan hai (if there is life, we have the world)" to the Prime Minister's lockdown mantra.