Covid isolation period can be reduced to five days in India: Virologist Gagandeep Kang

Double vaccine has blunted severity, Omicron doubling in 2-4 days

Published: 15th January 2022 07:06 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th January 2022 07:06 AM   |  A+A-

A health worker collects a swab sample amid rising Covid cases in Bengaluru. The capital added 20121 new cases on Friday. | Express

By Express News Service

BENGALURU: At a time when India is wondering how to deal with absenteeism due to Covid-19 illness affecting livelihoods, renowned virologist and microbiologist Dr Gagandeep Kang said isolation days can further be reduced to five days in the country.

Speaking at a fireside chat hosted by Biocon chief Dr Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw on ‘Preparing the Nation for Omicron Scare’, Dr Kang said, “With two doses of vaccination, it is important that we now convert what could have been a serious illness into just two to three days of illness.”

Dr Kang explained that the argument made for reducing days of isolation to five is “it will miss about 30 per cent of potentially infectious people, but many of those numbers are based on a virus that had a much longer generation time. Delta variant and others were not as quick as Omicron. With Omicron, we have seen doubling time of two to four days, whereas for other viruses, it was four to six days”. She said that based on this information, it will not be a problem to shorten isolation to five days.

Agreeing that reducing isolation period to fewer days may help many, Dr Shaw said people are hoping this is the end of the pandemic. However, Dr Kang warned that going by the history of pandemics, many come in wave patterns, and most of these patterns are varied. “With most pandemics, you tend to see an oscillatory pattern, so the first wave may be small, second larger, third may be smaller or larger than the second wave, but as you get to the tail of the pandemic, you see the oscillations beginning to decrease in size and become stretched out over time,” she said. However, she warned that it cannot be guaranteed that we will get lucky, like we have with the Omicron variant.

Answering a question on when people could travel freely, she said, “If no new challenging variant comes along, and it continues to be antigenically related to the variants we have seen so far, we can expect to see travel opening up in 2022, and further in 2023.”

Speaking on booster doses, Dr Kang says people must now junk the idea that we are going to get permanent protection against infection. She reasons that infection is short-lived, and it won’t make sense to keep vaccinating every three months to gain protection against infection. The focus has to be on the severity of the disease and preventing deaths, and double vaccine dose is working.

Appreciating the government’s technology-based apps providing real-time data to manage the pandemic, Dr Kang said there is definitely a need to integrate and link databases.


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