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Lockdowns, movement restrictions, contact tracing and daily tracking are gradually being phased out in countries like South Africa, the US and UK, as the world moves on to other methods to tackle the fast-mutating coronavirus. Vaccination remains a constant though.
The world is witnessing a new surge of COVID-19 infections. The fresh cases have been linked to the highly-transmissible Omicron variant of the SARS CoV-2 virus. As countries come to grips with this new and somewhat different COVID-19 wave, some new trends are emerging in operation fightback.
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The heavily-mutated variant is wildly different from the initial virus that had first emerged two years ago. Omicron stands apart from the ‘wild’ variant of SARS CoV-2, and even from the deadly Delta variant that consumed the world earlier in the year -- spreading exponentially faster but causing less severe symptoms.
The variant is even different when it comes to the most common symptoms that it causes in patients when compared to the Delta and other variants. As the virus has mutated over the past two years, the world’s response to it has changed as well.
Here’s how the three most-affected countries are taking on the Omicron challenge:
Recently, South African health authorities announced that the country would be stop putting resources into contact tracing. While contact tracing had been one of the primary ways of controlling the spread of the disease when the COVID-19 pandemic first emerged, South Africa is dropping the practice due to the high number of asymptomatic cases caused by Omicron, the rapid spread of the disease, high levels of immunity through exposure and the large amount of resources needed.
Similarly in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that the isolation period and quarantine period for asymptomatic individuals can be halved as well. This decision comes after it was found that the “majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after.”
In the UK, which had aggressively implemented lockdowns as a strategy to curb infections earlier during the pandemic, no new restrictions are being announced despite an increase in the number of cases. The country is relying on the widespread coverage of vaccines to its population as well as the administration of booster doses to keep mortality and hospitalisation rates low.
As the virus continues to mutate, health authorities around the world are changing the tactics they are using to combat the disease. Increased scientific evidence over possible treatments, preventive methods and strategies have also helped authorities to narrow down what works and what doesn’t.
Also read: Omicron alert: As COVID-19 cases spike, Centre writes to states & UTs for immediate action
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)