Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital in Delhi has become the dedicated facility for treating Covid-19 patients who may be infected with the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus. The Delhi international airport has referred 13 suspected Omicron cases to the hospital.
Dr Suresh Kumar, medical director of the LNJP Hospital said eight (out of the 12 cases till Friday evening) have tested Covid positive. He added that seven are asymptomatic, while one is suffering from sore throat, headache and low-grade fever.
The national capital’s largest hospital for Covid-19 treatment, LNJP hospital has created a special 40-bed ward to isolate those suspected of being infected with the new variant, Dr Kumar told News18 in an interview. He also spoke about the hospital’s preparedness in view of the threat of an Omicron-driven third wave in India.
At present, passengers arriving from ‘at risk’ countries to the Delhi international airport are being sent to LNJP hospital. Dr Kumar said work was being done to track primary and secondary contacts of the twelve people referred to the hospital. They patients belong to UK, France, Netherlands, Belgium and Tanzania.
He further said the hospital had its own laboratory for genome sequencing, the capacity for which had been enhanced from 40 to 100 samples per day. It will, however, take three to four days to get the results, he added.
Excerpts from the interview:
Note: Twelve cases were reported as referred to the LNJP Hospital on Friday morning, at the time this interview was taken. Another case was added on Saturday morning.
How many cases are there at LNJP hopsital? Where are they from?
Right now, we have twelve cases at LNJP hospital, referred to us from the Delhi international airport. Four each are from England and France, two from Netherlands and one each from Belgium and Tanzania.
How many of them have tested Covid positive? How long will it take to understand whether it is the Omicron variant?
Out of twelve, eight are Covid positive. They were tested via RT-PCR or rapid antigen method. Seven are asymptomatic while one patient has sore throat, headache and low-grade fever.
What steps are you taking to keep a tab on primary and secondary contacts of the patients?
You see, we are following guidelines by WHO, ICMR and Government of India. We have trained our staff to take a detailed history and even have a separate facility to treat the patients. We have created a 40-bed ward for those referred to us from the airport. We are doing all the necessary work and have sent samples for genome sequencing to know whether we are dealing with the new Omicron variant.
Why does it take time to understand whether it is the Omicron variant?
Genome sequencing is a complex scientific test. It is not a single test or a screen test. It is a highly sophisticated test that requires separation of the RNA from the RT-PCR sample and, after that, the RNA is sequenced. It is a lengthy procedure and then we come to know the lineage of the new variant if at all it is present in the sample. Then we re-confirm it and only then are the results declared. So, it takes four to five days.
What is the capacity for testing?
Earlier, we had a capacity to handle 30 to 40 samples per day, but now, keeping in mind a possible third wave, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has asked us to increase the capacity. So, we have increased the capacity to 100 per day at our genome sequencing lab.
What is your message for the people?
Through you, I would like to give the message that there is no need to panic. We all must be calm and more vigilant. We should be more careful and must follow Covid-appropriate behaviour. If you are negligent, if you visit crowded places, you are at great risk. So avoid crowded places, wear your mask properly and, if you are not vaccinated or have not taken the second dose, you must get it at the earliest. This will give you protection against any emergent strain of the Covid virus. There are many who have taken one dose and have been careless with the second dose.
Are vaccines sufficient protection for the new variant?
Vaccines prevent you from complications, they prevent you from landing into the ICU, they prevent you from landing in respiratory failure. So, if you are vaccinated, if any strain comes, it creates only mild symptoms. So, the chances of complications, of death, hospitalisation can be prevented if you take two doses. Vaccination is essential in the management of any new variant. We have seen that if a patient is not vaccinated, the severity of the disease is higher and this could land the patient into respiratory failure.