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Podcast: What do we know about Omicron?

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On this edition of FRONTPAGE we are asking the question- What do we know about Omicron? Join us as we find out more about children and Omicron from Dr Zaid al Hinai, Consultant Physician and Assistant Professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Sultan Qaboos University.

Even though experts have noted that the severity of the Covid-19 infection has been decreasing, saving children from the infection has emerged as a matter of concern.

Dr Zaid al Hinai, Consultant Physician and Assistant Professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Sultan Qaboos University, attributed the increasing numbers to the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

“The numbers are on expected lines as the trend has been noticed in other countries and regions where there is spread of Omicron. So we have been seeing a steady increase in the Sultanate of Oman in the past three weeks, and this increase might continue for a couple of more weeks in this wave,” said Dr Zaid.

However, he pointed out that the percentage of severe cases came down significantly compared to the previous wave.

“We are pretty sure this is so because of the immunity we have acquired from vaccination as well as those who have picked up immunity from the previous infection. We see good protection from the vaccines, and we additionally think the booster shots will further decrease the severe cases to lower percentages,” he pointed out.

He advised that this is definitely a wave that people must be careful about by taking precautions such as booster shots, wearing masks and maintaining social distance.

Many children, on the other hand, have not been vaccinated, and they are more likely to overlook safety measures such as masks and social distance.

“We do hope that vaccination for children five to 11 years of age will arrive soon. Generally, the infection in children is milder than in adults. Still, there should be protection for children as some cases do become severe. The Supreme Committee rightfully decided to go for online classes for grades one to four. This would slow down the spread,” he explained.

As a preventive measure, the children should avoid large gatherings, advised the physician. “Most of the transmissions among children happen either from schools or family gatherings. So precaution has to be taken.”

There have been incidents also where people mistook Omicron symptoms for the common cold and seasonal flu, resulting in mingling with others.

“It has always been challenging to distinguish between Covid and other viruses, especially during the initial stages of the illness, that is the first three to five days. It can feel just like any other virus. With Omicron, it could be sore throat, running nose, body ache, fatigue, fever, but there are other symptoms such as a decrease in smell and taste, which are more specific to Omicron,” he noted.

Dr Zaid urged that if people have these symptoms, they should immediately isolate themselves and avoid transmitting the infection to others. PCR test will help the individual distinguish if it is Covid-19 or not.

“Eventually, testing is the only way to know, but the first step should be to isolate to stop the transmission and not become a source for others to fall sick,” said Dr Zaid.

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