With the Covid trajectory of the third wave in decline for the past two weeks, the health ministry said on Thursday that the cases peaked at 347,245 on January 21 — at a level lower compared to the second wave peak when daily cases had touched 414,188.
“We don’t talk in terms of waves but only present the data as we see it. Daily cases are declining but are still over 100,000, which means we have to be very careful,” said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, health ministry. India registered over 172,000 new Covid infections in the last 24 hours.
The government also said that the Budget allocation of Rs 5,000 crore towards vaccination for 2022-23 was an upfront provision. “It has been stated that more resources will be made available as per need,” said V K Paul, member-health Niti Aayog and head of the National Task Force on Covid-19. Paul was responding to a question on whether the lower allocation meant that the government might pull out of free vaccination and whether the amount was sufficient for booster shots and children vaccination.
The Centre had allocated Rs 35,000 crore for vaccinationn in last year’s Budget, which was increased to Rs 39,000 crore in the Revised Estimates for 2021-22.
The health ministry said the Covid situation in the country was improving even though there were pockets of high case load. While 34 states are recording a decline in both cases and positivity rate, two states — Kerala and Mizoram — are registering a spike on both counts. The positivity rate in Kerala for the week ending February 3 was 47 per cent, while for Mizoram it was 34.1 per cent.
Overall, week-on-week comparison shows a decline in the number of districts with more than 10 per cent positivity — 297 during the last week compared to 406 the week before. And, 169 districts are now reporting a positivity rate between 5 and 10 per cent.
A study of national clinical registry done by the Indian Council of Medical Research, comparing one month of Omicron wave and the preceding one month dominated by the Delta variant, showed that complications were much less in the former and that mortality was lower in vaccinated patients.
Ten per cent of the total hospital-admitted patients who died were fully vaccinated and over 90 per cent of them had some comorbidity. Deaths were higher among the unvaccinated at almost 22 per cent and about 83 per cent of them had some comorbidity. Oxygen and mechanical ventilation requirement was also much less in vaccinated individuals compared to the unvaccinated.
The study was conducted on 1,520 individuals admitted in 37 hospitals across the country.
It also found that there were more younger inpatients of around 44 years as against 55-plus in the second wave. And sore throat was more common this time around. Fewer patients had breathing difficulty, fever and cough compared to the Delta wave. Loss of smell or taste, too, was seen in only 2.2 per cent of the patients in the ongoing Omicron spread.
Another study by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) found that unlike the evidence during the earlier surge, with the current variant, surgery is safe and not associated with higher chances of complications or deaths in Covid-19-positive patients. “Patients who need surgery need not be denied surgical intervention presently,” the study said.
Of the 53 patients who were part of the study, 60 per cent were given regular anaesthesia. Of these 32 patients, 26 cases were lower segment cesarean section and did not report complications during surgery and immediate postoperative period.