While we still hear about cases of COVID, they are becoming as common as cases of dengue or typhoid right now. And when the WHO said that “the end of the COVID pandemic is in sight,” it made many of us wonder if it’s finally time to leave behind our paranoia and concerns about catching a severe and highly infectious strain of COVID? Let’s hear it straight from the doctors
Dr. Ankur Phatarpekar, Cathlab Director and Interventional Cardiologist, Symbiosis Hospital, Mumbai
“As a cardiologist, I see much less cases of COVID-19 in my OPD and much less heart complications caused by COVID. In the last 6 months, I have hardly come across any patients who have had a heart attack or heart attack complications of the disease because of COVID. So yes, as suggested by WHO, the pandemic is in its final stage. However, we all should still follow certain safety protocols to keep us away from any further viruses.”
Dr. Behram Pardiwala, Director of Internal Medicine, Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai Central
“The COVID pandemic has now become endemic resulting in community spread and herd immunity to some extent. My opinion is that like the annual flu shot, we will need to get an annual COVID vaccination. We should still take adequate precautions, especially in crowded areas and crowded places to prevent the spread. We also have to be careful about mutations and new strains that evolve and so the vaccine will have to evolve as well. To this end it is also necessary that the public itself should know the consequences of the dangers of its conduct.’
Dr. Vineet Arora, Director – Internal Medicine, Max Super Specialty Hospital, Shalimar Bagh
“The SARS COV2 virus has a natural tendency to change and adapt to the host environment, which allows it to spread rapidly. We have seen the emergence of alpha, beta, gamma, delta to micron strains of COVID, as well as sub-variants. Each has varying degrees of virulence and immune evasion, with each successor being better than its predecessor in terms of disease-causing potential. Looking at this trend, it is hard to be convinced of the end of this pandemic and it also sounds a bit premature, although the prevailing strains are proving to be weaker in terms of mortality and morbidity.”
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Dr Dipu TS, Associate Professor, Department of Infectious Diseases, Amrita Hospital, Kochi
“From previous pandemics, we understand that in 2 to 3 years the pandemic will be a big challenge. We can see the same in our daily life, we are almost back to the pre-pandemic era with the opening of schools and restaurants and public spaces. In most countries, restrictions are now nominal. Although the new numbers of CoVID cases still give us the hint that it is far from over, with the newer variants, but it is still a fact that it is no longer a rapidly spreading disease that sweeps across nations. The assumption is that the most virulent variant that is the micron variant has already existed and now the circulating variants are less likely to produce a more virulent variant to slither across the globe. The hybrid immunity that the masses have, due to vaccination and prior infection also adds to the beginning of the end. Therefore, the WHO has rightly said that the end is in sight.”
Dr Viswesvaran Balasubramanian, Consultant Interventional Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine, Yashoda Hospitals Hyderabad
“The COVID 19 pandemic has been quite devastating worldwide with the death of nearly 6.5 million people worldwide. However, recently we are seeing a decrease in the number of active COVID 19 infections worldwide. These numbers may not reflect a true incidence as there has been a general downward trend of active screening of patients for COVID 19 infection, especially in the current scenario of increased respiratory infections secondary to influenza.Furthermore, rapid test kits used for direct testing are not the gold standard diagnostic method and may miss a few active infections.
Particularly in India, although active cases of COVID 19 are declining, we are seeing sporadic outbreaks of COVID 19 infection isolated or with seasonal influenza, and in some high-risk patients it is associated with significant morbidity and mortality.
We have seen the emergence of mutant strains in the past with the delta and omicron variant being the most commonly implicated. Although we wish not to see the re-emergence of further mutated variants, it seems a realistic possibility in the future with past data. As with all pandemics, the virus continues to persist, and it’s just that the current mutational variants are not associated with severe forms of infection in a relatively healthy population.
With the acceptance of social pandemic norms and the active control of COVID 19 infections in patients with upper respiratory tract infections on the decline, there is a significant possibility that we will see further mutations in the near future. As seen in pandemic influenza, vaccination, mask use, and avoidance of social gathering among patients with high risk factors such as underlying diabetes, chronic kidney or heart disease, and those with low underlying immune status can moderate severity. Early reporting and active monitoring of patients with respiratory symptoms should continue to be insisted upon, as this can help in early detection of the outbreak and can ensure appropriate early mitigation measures.”