While we still do hear of COVID cases, they are becoming as common as dengue or typhoid cases right now. And when WHO said that “the end of COVID pandemic is in sight’, it made a lot of us wonder if it is time to finally put our paranoia and worries regarding catching a severe and highly infectious COVID strain behind us? Let’s hear it straight from the doctors
Dr Ankur Phatarpekar, Director Cathlab and Interventional Cardiologist, Symbiosis Hospital, Mumbai
“As a cardiologist, I am seeing very less cases of COVID-19 in my OPD, and very less COVID-induced complications of the heart. In last 6 months I have almost not come across any patient who has suffered any heart attacks or heart disease complications due to COVID. So, yes, as WHO suggested, the pandemic is at an end stage. However, we all still should follow some safety protocols to keep us at bay from any further viruses.”
Dr Behram Pardiwala, Director Internal Medicines, Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai Central
“The COVID pandemic has now become endemic with the result that there is community spread, and attainment of herd immunity to a certain degree. My opinion is that like the annual influenza shot, we will need to take an annual vaccination against COVID. We will still need to take adequate precautions especially in crowded areas and crowded places to prevent spread. One also must be vigilant about mutations and new strains evolving and that is why the vaccine also will have to evolve. Towards this end it is also necessary that the common public themselves are aware of the consequences of risks of their behavior.”
Dr. Vineet Arora, Director – Internal Medicine, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Shalimar Bagh
“SARS COV2 virus has a natural tendency to change itself and adapt to the host environment which enables its rapid spread. We have seen the emergence of COVID strains from alpha, beta, Gamma, delta to omicron and also the subvariants. Each has varying degrees of virulence transmissibility and immune escape potential with every successor being fitter than its predecessor in terms of disease-causing potential. Looking at this trend, it becomes hard to convince oneself of the end of this pandemic and also sounds little premature, though the prevailing strains are proving to be weaker strains in terms of mortality and morbidity.”
Dr Dipu TS, Associate Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases, Amrita Hospital, Kochi
“From the previous pandemics, our understanding is that by 2 to 3 years the pandemic will seize to be a major challenge. We can see the same in our daily lives, we are almost back to the pre pandemic times with opening up of schools and restaurants and public places. In majority of the countries, now the restrictions are name sake. Though new CoVID case numbers are still giving us the hint that it’s far from over, with the newer variants, but still the fact is that it’s no more a rapidly spreading disease which sweeps across the nations. The assumption is that the most infectious variant that is the omicron variant has already been there and now the circulating variants are less likely to produce a more infectious variant to glide across the globe. The hybrid immunity the masses have, due to vaccination and prior infection also adds to the beginning of the end. Hence WHO rightly said that the end is at sight.”
Dr. Viswesvaran Balasubramanian, Consultant Interventional Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine, Yashoda Hospitals Hyderabad
“COVID 19 pandemic has been quite devastating worldwide with a fatality of almost 6.5 million people globally. 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 trend of decrease in active screening of patients for COVID 19 infection especially in the current scenario of increased respiratory infections secondary to flu. In addition the rapid kits used for immediate testing is not the gold standard diagnostic modality and may miss few active infections.
Particularly in India, though the active COVID 19 cases are on decline, we are seeing random spurts of COVID 19 infection in isolation or with seasonal flu and in certain high risk patients it is associated with significant morbidity and mortality.
We have seen the emergence of mutant strains in the past as well with delta and omicron variant being the most commonly involved. Though we wish we don’t see, reemergence of further mutant variants, it seems a realistic possibility in future as well with prior data . As with all pandemics, the virus continues to persist and it is just that the current mutation variants are not associated with serious forms of infection in relatively healthy population.
With the acceptance of social pandemic norms and active screening of COVID 19 infections in patients with upper respiratory tract infections on the decline, there is a significant possibility that we may see further mutants in near future. As seen with influenza pandemic, vaccination, usage of masks and avoidance of social gathering amongst patients with high risk factors like underlying diabetes, chronic kidney or heart ailments and those with low underlying immune status can mitigate the severity. Early reporting and active screening of patients with respiratory symptoms should continue to persist as this may help identifying the spurt early and can ensure proper timely mitigation measures.”