India should adopt risk-based approach not blanket bans to contain Covid: India WHO chief | India News

KOLKATA: General approaches such as the complete restriction of the movement of people and travel bans can be counterproductive to contain Covid in a country like India, says WHO Representative in India, Roderico H Ofrin, while advocating for targeted, risk-based strategies to counter the pandemic.
Emphasizing the need to protect both lives and livelihoods, he said public health action in India and globally must be continuously guided by evidence from four key issues: the transmissibility of the variant , the severity of the disease it causes, the quality of vaccines and previous infection with SARS-CoV-2 protect and how ordinary people perceive the risk and follow control measures.
“WHO does not recommend a blanket travel ban, nor a complete restriction on the movement of people. In many ways, such blanket approaches can be counterproductive. India, with its diversity in the distribution of population and geographic distribution, the risk-based approach remains the wisest public health practice to counter a pandemic,” Ofrin told PTI in an email interview.
Depending on the epidemiological situation, available public health capacities and the social and economic context, governments should adapt their measures to prevent and control transmission, the Delhi-based official said, as a surge caused by Omicron pushed India’s Covid tally to 3,76,18,271 (37.6 million / 3.76 crores) on Tuesday.
“WHO advises governments to adopt nuanced, targeted and risk-based approaches that involve multi-level control measures, reducing the risks associated with travel and transmission,” Ofrin said.
If all the do’s and don’ts are followed, there is no need for confinement.
“In the current scenario, existing tools and solutions continue to be effective – expanding vaccination coverage, using masks, maintaining hand hygiene, physical distancing, ventilating indoor spaces and avoidance of crowds helps cut the chain of transmission. If these are followed, he will not need confinements,” Ofrin said.
He said the emergence of the novel coronavirus variant of this magnitude “has been beyond expectations” and it is evident that “Omicron has a growth advantage over Delta which is spreading rapidly across states and the territories”.
The country reported 2,38,018 new coronavirus infections, according to the Union Health Ministry on Tuesday. With that, active cases rose to 17,36,628 (1.7 million / 17.3 lakh), the highest in 230 days, while the death toll soared to 4,86,761 with 310 new fatalities.
Although it is not possible to undertake genome sequencing of every sample, experts agree that the current wave is largely driven by the Omicron variant.
Elaborating on ways to handle the current Covid situation, Ofrin, who joined the WHO as India’s representative in July 2020, stressed that it is not only the responsibility of the government but also of every individual. .
“It is the same virus/disease with a different variant. The mitigations put in place against earlier variants are still recommended for combating Omicron. services and community-level containment measures effectively support response efforts to combat the pandemic,” he added.
On whether the Indian government has been slow to decide on booster doses for doctors and other healthcare and frontline workers, India’s WHO chief said: “The main recommendation of the WHO continues to be prioritizing access to vaccines for vulnerable populations and those who have not yet completed their doses and the rollout of boosters is secondary. This has also been WHO’s vaccination strategy. India.
“Recalls as recommended by the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) remain for immunocompromised people, people with chronic conditions, especially the elderly.”
Implementing a blanket booster program while large segments of the population remain unvaccinated is likely to prolong the pandemic and miss the wider population it aims to protect, Ofrin explained.
Vaccination of children should be introduced after proper study on child safety keeping in mind the epidemiological and social context of India, he said.
“Although the majority of COVID-19 vaccines are only approved for use in adults aged 18 and over, an increasing number of vaccines are also authorized for use in children. It is only after the evidence on the safety of children has been well studied and deliberated as Depending on the epidemiological and social context of the country, can a vaccine be introduced for this age group?
“India is already vaccinating the age group of 15-18 years. The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) and the National Expert Group on Administering COVID-19 Vaccines (NEGVAC) are deliberating and review the scientific evidence related to the rationale for vaccines for children under 15.”
Discussing WHO’s role in helping the Indian government fight the pandemic, Ofrin said it was providing technical and field support through its network of 2,600 field officers and staff based in 23 States and that it also reached all States and Union Territories (UT).
“Our people deployed in programs such as immunization, tuberculosis, neglected tropical diseases, etc. have been redirected to work with health authorities at all levels to respond to the pandemic.”
Will 2022 see the end of the current pandemic?
“It is very difficult to set a date when the pandemic will end. Remember that as the virus continues to be transmitted, new variants may emerge which may be more transmissible or more severe. It is possible to bring this virus under control by ensuring the availability and strategic use of the tools we have.” Ofrine replied

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