Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital in Delhi has become a dedicated facility for treating Covid-19 patients who may be infected with the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus. Delhi International Airport has referred 13 suspected Omicron cases to the hospital, eight of which tested positive for Covid, said Dr. Suresh Kumar, Medical Director of the LNJP Hospital. He added that seven were asymptomatic while one had a sore throat, headache and a low-grade fever.
LNJP Hospital, the capital’s largest hospital for the treatment of Covid-19, has created a special 40-bed ward to isolate people suspected of being infected with the new variant, said Dr. Kumar in an interview with News18. He also spoke about the hospital’s preparedness in the face of the threat of an Omicron-powered third wave in India.
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Currently, passengers arriving to Delhi International Airport from “endangered” countries are being transferred to the LNJP hospital. Dr. Kumar said work was being done to track the primary and secondary contacts of the twelve people referred to the hospital. The patients are from Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Tanzania.
He said the hospital has its own genome sequencing laboratory, the capacity of which has been increased from 40 to 100 samples per day. However, it will take three to four days for the results to come in, he added.
Excerpts from an interview:
How many cases are there in the LNJP hospital? Where are you from?
Right now we have twelve cases at LNJP hospital referred to us from Delhi International Airport. Four each come from England and France, two from the Netherlands and one each from Belgium and Tanzania.
How many of them have tested positive for Covid? How long will it take to understand if it’s the Omicron variant?
Eight out of twelve are Covid-positive. They were tested using RT-PCR or the rapid antigen method. Seven are asymptomatic while one patient has a sore throat, headache, and a mild fever.
What steps do you take to keep track of patients’ primary and secondary contacts?
You see, we follow guidelines from WHO, ICMR and the Government of India. We have trained our staff to take a detailed medical history and even have a separate facility for treating patients. We have created a 40-bed ward for those who have moved from the airport. We are doing all the necessary work and have sent samples for genome sequencing to know if it is the new Omicron variant.
Why does it take time to understand if it’s the Omicron variant?
Genome sequencing is a complex scientific test. It is not a single test or a screen test. It is a sophisticated test that separates the RNA from the RT-PCR sample and then sequences the RNA. It is a lengthy process, and then we learn the parentage of the new variant, if it is even present in the sample. Then we confirm it again and only then are the results declared. So it takes four to five days.
What is the test capacity?
We used to have a capacity of 30 to 40 samples per day, but now the Prime Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal has asked us to increase the capacity in view of a possible third wave. So we increased the capacity in our genome sequencing lab to 100 per day.
What is your message to the people?
Through you, I want to convey the message that there is no need to panic. We all need to be calm and more vigilant. We should be more careful and follow Covid-appropriate behavior. If you are negligent in visiting crowded places, you are at great risk. So avoid crowded places, wear your mask properly and if you have not been vaccinated or have not taken the second dose, you must be given it at the earliest. This offers you protection from emerging strains of the Covid virus. There are many who have taken one dose and been negligent with the second dose.
Are vaccines sufficient for the new variant?
Vaccines prevent complications, they keep you from ending up in intensive care, they keep you from ending up with respiratory failure. So if you are vaccinated, exposure will cause only mild symptoms. Thus, taking two doses can prevent the chances of complications, death, and hospitalization. Vaccination is essential when treating any new variant. We have seen that if a patient is not vaccinated, the severity of the disease is higher and this could cause the patient to experience respiratory failure.
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