Can India learn from this?
Barely two months after the Omicron wave, U.S. epidemiologists are already warning of another swell in the pandemic.

Though Covid case numbers are falling in most of the country, scientists warn that the quiet may soon give way to another surge, driven by an Omicron subvariant, BA.2. It is already fueling an increase in cases in 18 countries, including Britain, France, Germany and Italy.
There are still many question marks about a potential BA.2 wave. To understand what might lie ahead, I spoke with my colleague Benjamin Mueller, a health and science reporter.

What do we know about BA.2?
We know that BA.2 is more contagious than the version of Omicron that spread through the U.S. this winter. We know that some places like New York City are seeing early signs of cases ticking up, though at very low levels overall. And BA.2 is quickly becoming more prevalent in some places. But whether that turns into a wave — as some countries in Europe are seeing — is hard to know for sure.

What are the different scenarios?
There are a few possibilities. Some experts predict that a BA.2 wave could come as soon as April, or perhaps later in the spring or in the early summer.

Another possibility is that BA.2 slows down a decline in cases or produces only a slight uptick — but not a big wave. That could be because so many Americans got infected with the first version of Omicron over the winter, so there’s more immunity in the population. Spring is also here, when people do more socializing outside, which could slow down transmission somewhat.
There’s also some optimism that even if there is a more sizable bump in cases, because of all the immunity in the population, hospitalization rates may not go up so much. That’s been true for some European countries where cases have been rising for a few weeks, but we’ve not yet seen a surge of hospitalizations.

What’s the worst case scenario?
A worse-case scenario is that the U.S. follows the path of the U.K., where not only have cases surged, but so have hospitalizations.

The U.S. has vaccinated and boosted people at lower rates than Western Europe. Even now, Americans are dying from Covid at far higher rates than people in Western Europe. And experts worry that those low booster and vaccination rates, especially in older people, could put the U.S. in a vulnerable position once BA.2 takes hold.
Plus, there’s the fear that even though some parts of the U.S. have effectively been without restrictions for months, reduced masking in other places could help speed a rise in cases.

What do studies say about how much an Omicron infection protects against a BA.2 infection?
There have been some lab studies that suggested that vaccinated people infected with Omicron produce reasonably high levels of antibodies that probably protect against BA.2. And we know from estimates out of the U.K. that vaccines seem to protect about as well against BA.1 as they do against BA.2. The big variable is how long that protection, especially from a previous infection, is going to last.

How should I approach the next few months?
When I asked scientists that question, they said they were encouraging people to do something like what they thought the government should be doing, which is using this moment to get prepared.

That means having good masks, and people availing themselves of the free tests on offer. Scientists also think it’s very important that people get booster shots if they’re eligible. And they hope that the government prepares, too, by securing the money it needs for additional treatments and vaccines and making booster shots more accessible, especially to vulnerable people.