Another covid wave likely soon, warn health experts

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India will have to strengthen its testing, contact tracing and surveillance to prevent yet another wave of coronavirus infections as the country appears to be on the verge of a second covid-19 wave with cases surging unabated once again, said public health experts.

The country recorded over 46,951 new covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours. Of these, 84.49% have been reported from Maharashtra, Punjab, Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Maharashtra has reported the highest daily new cases at 30,535 (65.03%). This is followed by Punjab with 2,644 and Kerala with 1,875, the data showed.

India’s total active caseload has reached 334,646 as on Monday. India’s present active caseload stands at 2.87% of its total positive cases, which is almost double the percentage two months ago. The daily positivity rate (seven-day average) stands at 3.70%.

“Pandemics by definition occur in waves and while different parts of the country have, over the last year, seen multiple waves, as a nation we seem now to be heading towards the second major wave. So far, the current spurt has been restricted to a few states such as Maharashtra. This jump in Maharashtra and the constant increase in many other states is an area of concern and is indicative of the looming second wave,” said Himanshu Sikka, lead, health, IPE Global, a think tank and international development consultancy firm.

The situation in Maharashtra is especially worrisome, as the current wave in the state seems to be stronger than the last, where daily cases went up to only over 23,000, compared with the 30,000 daily cases in the current wave.

The average daily number of covid-19 cases in mid-September 2020 had been around 97,800, after which the numbers started diminishing to around 9,000 per day and then started spiking again. After mid-September, the lowest number of covid-19 cases in the country at 9,110 was reported on 9 February 2021. Since then, a spike in cases has been reported from some states, with 14,264 new cases being reported on 21 February, followed by 17,407 cases on 4 March and 46,951 cases on Monday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week asked states to take proactive measures to stop the emerging “second peak” of coronavirus immediately after noting that 70 districts of the country witnessed 150% rise in the last few weeks. Modi had warned that if the country does not stop this growing pandemic now, a countrywide outbreak can occur.

“In pandemics, if subsequent waves achieve higher peak, then it causes greater concern. If the same pattern is reflected by other states, the situation will be much worse than what we have seen during the last peak. States and the national government may need to take decisive action in the coming weeks depending on how other states move,” said Sikka.

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