Advice from Delhi doctors on Covid fears: No need to panic, wear masks in public places, take booster dose

Amidst the spurt in Covid cases across China, doctors in the capital and experts who have were actively involved in tackling the previous waves said there is no need to panic as the BF.7 variant is not lethal and has not been found in Delhi yet.

According to Dr S K Sarin, “There is no hesitation this time and the governments immediately started working as soon as we witnessed the surge in other countries. Action-taken plans have been in place within 24 hours of the alert. The lesson learnt is that we are prepared and know the road ahead.”

Doctors are of the view that there is no requirement for restrictions anymore as it has not been fruitful in the past. However, some suggested that wearing masks is advisable.

Dr Jugal Kishore, head of community medicine department at Safdarjung Hospital, said despite restrictions, a chunk of cases was reported in the last two waves of the pandemic. He added that while the mandate on masks is a policy matter, it is advised to use them when one suffers from a cough or shows symptoms. “The government is proactive and its directions are scientific. One should be cautious considering the rise in cases in several countries, but any new variant of omicron is unlikely to cause any major trouble in India,” he added.

Dr Sarin said it is a social responsibility to wear masks if people are infected or have a cough and cold. “With the festive season ahead, we need to be cautious and use masks in public… There is a catchphrase that ‘variants may come and go and may probably emerge every day’, but if you wear a mask, you may not get it,” he added.

On the other hand, Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, epidemiologist, public policy and health systems expert, said masks now have “limited” use. “The utility of masks, at the current level of transmission in India, is very limited and an individual decision. Government conducting meetings is the right step. When there is a surge in any part of the world, the government needs to analyse the risk. However, there is no need to panic. There is no reason to believe the surge in China will result in a rise in cases in India. We are in a safe zone. Neither has anything changed for India due to China nor will it in the days ahead,” said Dr Lahariya.

He added that “we have sufficient infrastructure to face any surge” and was optimistic that a surge might not come. “This is because we have increased vaccine coverage and high natural immunity due to the infection, and also because the BF.7, a sub-variant of omicron, was already detected in India 3 months ago,” he added.

Doctors said the preparedness by the government and other stakeholders is all set. “As (Delhi CM Arvind) Kejriwal ji announced that there is enough oxygen and bed availability, we can improve capacity for admissions at any time. We know the protocol. Extra beds prepared at various centres are still left and more can be added, however, short the duration is. We have vaccines and now more people should be encouraged to get the booster shots,” Dr Kishore added.

Dr Sarin also said the city is well prepared when it comes to bed, oxygen and testing: “The drug and supplies, IT network, and reporting is very well in place.”

Dr Rommel Tikko, Director, Internal Medicine at Max Super Speciality Hospital in Saket, emphasised on the importance of booster shots: “Covid is hardly present in India right now, but you never know when a surge might come… I feel it is very unlikely numbers will go up the way it has in the past. However, we have to keep tabs, conduct gene sequencing, and monitor for new strains. So, whoever is eligible for a booster should take it irrespective of the risks, to be on the safer side.”

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