India may be entering Covid endemic stage: WHO chief scientist
World Health Organisation chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
THE top scientist at the World Health Organisation has said that India might be entering the endemic stage of the coronavirus pandemic. Dr Soumya Swaminathan, the chief scientist at the world health body, on Wednesday (25) said this particular stage will see low or moderate levels of transmission with no peak of exponential growth as was witnessed during the devastating second wave that wreaked havoc across the country in April-May.
“We may be entering some kind of stage of endemicity where there is low level transmission or moderate level transmission going on but we are not seeing the kinds of exponential growth and peaks that we saw a few months ago,” Swaminathan said in an interview.
What is an endemic?
The United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines an endemic as “the constant presence and/or usual prevalence of a disease or infectious agent in a population within a geographic area”. When the disease rises above expected levels, an endemic becomes an epidemic or an outbreak and when the epidemic spreads across geography, it becomes a pandemic.
Swaminathan said India’s diverse population and varying immunity levels in different parts makes it likely that the current situation might continue with “ups and downs in different parts of the country”. She said cases might go up specifically in places where the population is more susceptible to infection because of reasons like low vaccination.
“As far as India is concerned that seems to be what is happening and because of the size of India and heterogeneity of population and immunity status in different parts of country in different pockets, it is very very feasible that the situation may continue like this with ups and downs in different parts of the country, particularly where there are more susceptible population, so those groups who were perhaps less affected by first and second waves or those areas with low levels of vaccine coverage we could see peaks and troughs for the next several months,” she said.
Various countries have gradually started learning to live with coronavirus and relaxed restrictions. The focus has now shifted more to containing infections and expediting the vaccination process. Countries like Australia, Thailand, Singapore and others have started treating coronavirus as an endemic and said people will have to start learning to live with it.
Dr T Jacob John, a prominent virologist, told India’s The Telegraph that “as of now, a third wave caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant is most unlikely”.
Dr Shahid Jameel, another virologist, however, said that serosurveys only measure antibodies “and that can be different from having immunity. Just having antibodies doesn’t mean that you are protected”, The Times, UK, reported.