BENGALURU: Delta variant of lineage B 1.617.2 has created havoc and is spreading fast even in the most vaccinated countries of the world. India too is still reeling under the effect of a deadly second wave due to this variant. Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, US-based epidemiologist and Health Economist and Senior Fellow at Federation of American Scientists told TNIE in an exclusive interview that India, where the Delta Variant first emerged, was in dark for the longer time. With evidence of the variant escaping vaccine efficacy, the country needs to now seriously ramp up genome sequencing and testing to mitigate the virus.
"We know a lot of things about delta variant now only because it invaded the UK and the country is able to track down these numbers epidemiologically and genomically. It is only when we know the data we
can respond with adequate and proportional medication. But India was in dark for the longer time," Dr Eric Ding said.
Meanwhile, he explained that India should also invest in a newer type of genomic testings including genotyping which is a shortcut method to sequence. He said the country also needs to be at the forefront and release the sequencing data in a week.
However, these require capabilities and infrastructure for which the Indian government need to come forward and invest into the pandemic planning and epidemiology to track down these through contact tracing.
"Every country offers different lessons which we can learn from each other. But the core is that if the variant rises from your country then to stop it from spreading to the world and to stop it from harming your own citizens, you need to invest in these resources. Or else not just India but the world will face multiple lockdowns," he explained.
Meanwhile, Dr Feigl-Ding warned that the world is far away from containing the pandemic and doing away with masks or social distancing. He said, we are reaching a point where we have more people that are previously infected, fewer people who have have never been infected.
"The virus will now search for more evasive-evasive of immune system, evasive of vaccines etc. That is the general trend. Playground of uninfected people is shrinking. Now the virus will look for ways to high jump to hose who have previously built some immunity. And we know delta plus is not just another random mutation but a tricky one which is known to be evasive," he said.
Hence, no country, according to him, should consider only vaccination as the strategy to mitigate the virus. He says, "Vaccinations are important but a country cannot rely on only vaccination as a strategy until the vaccinated population is in the 80 percent or higher. Until then wearing of proper N95 masks, especially indoors, ample ventilation, avoiding crowding are the only way forward. Many variants may emerge and if delayed in identifying those then there might bemany lockdowns in future not just in India but across the world."