Why most Indians may be protected from Omicron

News Network
November 30, 2021

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A “very large” number of Indians are likely to remain protected from Omicron or any other variant of Covid-19 and there is no need to panic, eminent virologist Dr Shahid Jameel has said.

Jameel, who is the former head of the advisory group to the Indian SARS-COV-2 Genomics Consortia (INASACOG), said people must be cautious and keep wearing masks.

"While we should be cautious, there is no need to panic. India's second wave due to the Delta variant was huge, infecting more people than we imagined. This is reflected in the fourth National Sero-survey that showed 67 per cent of Indians to have Covid antibodies. That is about 930-940 million people at a time when the vaccination levels were very low, and so it came mainly from infection," he said in an interview.

"More recently, Delhi showed 97 per cent with antibodies, Mumbai around 85-90 per cent and so on. All this means that a very large fraction of Indians will be protected from severe disease caused by Omicron or any other variant," Jameel said.

A new variant of Covid-19, feared to have a high amount of spike mutations, has been detected in South Africa. On November 26, the WHO had designated B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern and named it Omicron.

Speaking on the effectiveness of vaccines against the new variant, Jameel said more data is awaited but vaccine effectiveness against the variant may dip by a few points. However, vaccines will not become useless, he said.

"We don't have this data available yet. It may take another one to two weeks for the first laboratory results to become available. My hunch is that vaccine effectiveness against this variant may dip a few points, but vaccines will not become useless. They will continue to protect from severe disease," he said.

On how India can prepare to tackle the new variant, he said people should not panic, and continue to wear mask while the government should increase the rate of vaccination.

"We are fortunate to have sufficient vaccines and the ability to vaccinate. Along this line, it may help to reduce the duration between two doses of Covishield from 16 weeks to 12 weeks. This will get more people vaccinated quickly, especially those in vulnerable age groups (elderly), those with comorbidities and those in high risk occupations (health care)," he said.

On what role a booster dose of vaccine can play against the new variant to tackle waning immunity against Covid-19, he said booster shots help, but it is more important to first get more people vaccinated with two doses.

"Further, about 90 per cent of doses in India are Covishield, and this has limited use as a booster. For that we will need either RNA, DNA or protein vaccines. For the moment, just make sure more and more people get the two doses," he said.

Responding to reports claiming that the variant mainly affects people below 25 years of age, he said there is no data available on the subject.

"So far, the few known patients are in this age group. I doubt it will pose a bigger threat to children who naturally have no or mild disease to this virus," Jameel said.

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News Network
September 23,2022

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New Delhi, Sept 23: The Supreme Court on Friday said that no coercive action will be taken against journalist Navika Kumar for period of eight weeks in connection with the abusive remark against Prophet during a TV show. 

The Supreme Court clubbed and transferred to the Delhi Police all FIRs registered against journalist Navika Kumar over the controversial remarks made by ex-BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma on Prophet Mohammad during a TV debate moderated by her.

It also granted liberty to Kumar to move the Delhi High Court for quashing of the lead FIR.

The Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit of the Delhi Police will probe the matter.

The apex court on August 8 had granted interim protection from arrest to Kumar and issued notices to the Centre, West Bengal government, and others on Kumar’s plea seeking quashing of proceedings initiated against her.

Sharma’s remark on the Prophet during a TV debate had triggered protests across the country and drew sharp reactions from many Gulf countries.

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News Network
September 19,2022

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Newsroom, Sept 19: Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on Monday stepped up attack on the Pinarayi Vijayan government with video clippings showing him being heckled at a Kannur University event in 2019. 

"Whatever happened with me (physical attack) in Kannur had happened in the presence of many police personnel. In the video from then, you can see a senior political functionary, who's now in CM office, preventing police from acting," Khan said in Thiruvananthapuram. 

According to Khan, the heckling he faced there was part of a conspiracy to frighten him into not speaking in public and Vijayan had allegedly told the police not to lodge a case in connection with that incident.

The governor’s anger comes after the ruling CPI(M) on Sunday questioned the former’s meeting with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat in Thrissur on Saturday night.

“Now we can understand reasons behind his recent outbursts. The Governor has denigrated his position by calling on Bhagwat at the house of a local RSS leader in Thirssur flouting all protocols,” CPI(M) Kannur district secretary M V Jayarajan said, adding that of late he was behaving like a leader of the Sangh Parivar overlooking his duties and responsibilities.

The Governor’s office later confirmed that he had a meeting with the RSS leader and “it was only a courtesy call.” Bhagwat was staying at the house of a local RSS leader in Thrissur after his visit to Guruvayur temple.

Jayarajan also said protest against the Governor during the History Congress session in Kannur in 2019 was spontaneous and it was unfair to call it “an attempt on his life.” “It was a minor incident. He is ballooning it day in and out to get some sympathy. He cannot take out his frustration on the government citing a three- year-old incident,” he said in Kannur (north Kerala).

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News Network
September 22,2022

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Bengaluru/ Mangaluru, Sept 22: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) officials are conducting raids on residences of the members of Popular Front of India (PFI) in Bengaluru, Manglauru, Karwar, Koppal and other parts of Karnataka.

The raids have been going on since the early hours of Thursday.

According to sources, the NIA sleuths visited houses of PFI leaders in Bajpe and Jokatte areas of Mangaluru.

The NIA action sparked protest by PFI workers in Mangaluru. The police took many protesters into custody.

The raids are being conducted in four places in Bengaluru city - a flat in an apartment on Kannur Main Road near Bagaluru, a flat belonging to Karnataka president Mohammed Shakib in Richmond Town, a house on Tannery Road and the residence of another member in Pulakeshinagar. 

Shakib was reportedly not in the house when the NIA officials conducted the raid. However, his wife, children and other family members were present. The officials have seized some documents from his house. 

Following the raid hundreds of supports of Shakib gathered infront of his house and staged a protest, raising 'Go back NIA' slogans. They said the raid is politically motivated. The Ashok Nagar police who were at the spot have stopped the protesters entering the premises. 

The officials are yet to reveal the findings so far.

The searches are being conducted on the leaders and members who are allegedly involved in radicalising and funding terror activities.

The NIA and Enforcement Directorate jointly conducted raids in a few places, according to sources. However, there is no official statement yet.

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