Even as Delhi witnessed a spike in coronavirus cases amid concerns of a fresh COVID wave, the national capital recorded the first cases of Omicron’s BA.5 variant. The cases were confirmed at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Lok Nayak Hospital and Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS).
A scientist, however, said that no clusters of the sub-lineage were seen yet and the variant was not spreading at an alarming rate.
“One or two cases have been reported from AIIMS, Lok Nayak Hospital and ILBS. But there is no need to panic because we haven’t seen clusters yet and it’s not spreading alarmingly,” the scientist said.
Another scientist privy to the genome sequencing data of the Capital said that it was too soon to attribute the current rise in cases to the Omicron sub-lineage BA.5.
Delhi government data showed that two months ago, during the surge in cases in April, the dominant sub-lineages of Omicron were BA.2.12 and BA.2.10. According to government officials, in the first fortnight, the share of BA.2.12 in the total samples collected in Delhi was 52% and that of BA.2.10 was 11%.
Dr Lalit Kant, former head of the epidemiology and communicable diseases department in the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said that the possibility of BA.5 driving the current wave cannot be ruled out and a proper assessment can be made once comprehensive data comes from the government.
“Omicron’s BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants are known to be around 13% more transmissible than the previous BA.1 and BA.2 variants and are slowly becoming the dominant sub-strains in Europe and the US. However, there is no proof of these strains being more dangerous. Since we have seen cases of BA.4 and BA.5 in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, there is a possibility of these cases in Delhi as well. Since genome sequencing is a long process, we might get confirmations on the trend maybe two-three weeks from now,” Dr Kant said.