As Shanghai goes in for a phased lockdown to curb an Omicron-fuelled Covid outbreak, generating the highest caseloads in China since the early days of the pandemic, it has not set the alarm bells ringing in India just yet.

It is likely the BA.2 sub-lineage of Omicron is in action in mainland China and its biggest city. But no sufficient data has emerged from there indicating any disproportionately large hospitalisation or fatalities, says Anish TS, member of the Kerala Covid Task Force.

“We must also remember that lockdown is the main strategy that China has used to tackle a fresh outbreak. For us here in Kerala and India, it is the last resort. So, it is difficult to gauge the nature of scale and extent of the virus spread,” he told BusinessLine.

Evidence also suggests that at least up to 25 per cent of the Omicron cases reported in India were attributable to the BA.2 sub-lineage. This is not exactly new to the country. Given this, the outbreak in China is not a cause for undue concern, said Anish.

India recorded 1,270 new cases in 24 hours up to Monday morning, and 31 deaths, including 22 reconciliations, which put the recorded deaths in this period at nine, according to data from the Union Health Ministry.

Kerala has been among the worst-hit during the second and third phases (Delta and Omicron) of the Covid pandemic. But the number of daily new cases is down to three figures, deaths to single figure or nil, though reconciliation of this data is apace.

The mask mandate needs to be persisted within a crowd or in areas prone to outbreaks, said Anish. “We’ve been used to warning and are careful about protection against water-borne diseases. Covid has shown we should keep ourselves protected against air-borne diseases as well. So mask-wearing is advisable at least for the time being.”

Rajeev Jayadevan, Vice-Chairman, IMA Kerala Research Cell, says the rising cases of Covid in places in East Asia is because of the zero-Covid strategy pursued since the outset of the pandemic. This has started hitting now with high rates of transmission and death in these places as people do not have a natural immunity built up in the population.

For instance, Hong Kong’s elderly, who are the most at risk, are reluctant to take vaccination. Thus, zero Covid strategy might be okay for a short-lived pandemic, but for Covid, which has no end in sight, it is clearly the wrong strategy, said Jayadevan.

There will definitely be subsequent waves because this is basically a cyclical viral disease, and it is continuously evolving to escape our immune protection. The next variant could come from any branch of the genomic tree, and need not be in any way related to Omicron.

India, he said, is in the low-tide phase of the pandemic or the ebbing phase, where cases have drastically dropped almost like it did in South Africa earlier.

Unlike Delta, India is not experiencing a prolonged tail phase with Omicron yet. This could be because of high levels of hybrid immunity, excellent vaccination coverage or due to the nature of Omicron variant, Jayadevan added.