New Delhi: With India witnessing a surge in Covid-19 cases which is believed to be driven by the Omicron variant, NITI Aayog's Member, Health, Dr VK Paul on Wednesday warned that the new variant is "not a common cold".
This comes a day after the country's top epidemiologist called Omicron infections as mild as a cold and said everybody would likely catch it.
"Omicron is not the common cold. We are seeing this misconception spreading; it's our responsibility to slow it down. Let's mask up and get vaccinated, whoever is due," said Dr Paul adding that the variant should not be underestimated.
It's a fact that vaccines are helpful to an extent. Vaccination is a critical pillar of our Covid response," he said while briefing reporters.
Yesterday, a top epidemiologist at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Jayaprakash Muliyil, argued that rules so far to tackle the pandemic needed a complete relook as Omicron was a far milder variant than Delta and not frightening.
"The consequence of a viral infection now is just like a cold. We have to recognise that we have been chasing a particular kind of objective so far," said Dr Muliyil, epidemiologist and chairperson of, Scientific Advisory Committee at ICMR's National Institute of Epidemiology.
When it was pointed out that Omicron symptoms are far more severe and the demand for oxygen beds had increased since the new variant started racing through the population, he said that the infection was almost unstoppable and highly infectious, but a "majority will not know they are infected".
"It is so much more infectious than Delta, but the consequences are different. Fewer will be hospitalised. It is not a frightening disease anymore. Omicron is a disease you can deal with. A change of mindset is needed. How long can we have fear looming over us?" Dr Muliyil said.
"Clearly, the Omicron variant is dominating right now," Dr Paul said as he urged people to take Omicron seriously and warned it could badly hit health care systems.
Dr Paul also said that the government is concerned about 'overuse and misuse' of drugs in home isolation. "There should be a rational approach for medicine use. We are concerned about the overuse & misuse of drugs. Don't overuse, it will have aftermath. Have warm water, do gargles in home care," he underlined.