Why is India considering a ‘second peak’ in COVID cases? | News on the coronavirus pandemic
New Delhi, India – India reported nearly 40,000 cases of the coronavirus on Friday, the largest daily increase since November 29, amid fears of a ‘second peak’ of the pandemic in the third worst-affected country in the world after the United States and Brazil.
India’s health ministry said 39,726 new cases of COVID-19 had been recorded nationwide on Friday, bringing the total to 11,514,331.
At least 154 virus-related deaths have been reported in the past 24 hours, while the total death toll stands at 159,370 since the disease erupted a year ago.
The western state of Maharashtra led the rise in cases, accounting for 25,833 or 65% of new infections, with India’s financial capital Mumbai registering 2,877 on Friday.
Punjab, Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat and the capital Delhi are other states that have seen the biggest one-day increase since Thursday, according to government data.
For more than a week, the South Asian nation has reported at least 20,000 new infections a day, after cases began to decline in September last year.
What caused the spike?
So what caused the last peak, which even Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the “second peak” of the coronavirus?
Experts say inadequate government measures and people not following public health guidelines, such as wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing, were the main reasons for the rise in infections in India.
“The point is, we have been lax on both fronts. Many people believe the danger has passed, especially since early January, and believe that since cases and deaths have declined, they could move and participate in overcrowded events … [It] gave the virus an opportunity to spread, ”K Srinath Reddy, chairman of the Public Health Foundation of India, told Al Jazeera.
“In addition, there have been a number of political, social and religious events and elections for local bodies in several states and preparations for assembly elections in others – all of this has created a opportunity for the virus to move quickly.
Reddy said he never believed India had achieved herd immunity to the virus because suggested by some experts. He hopes that maintaining caution in both public health law enforcement and personal measures could avoid another alarming situation.
“We opened everything quickly. People now have parties, funerals, dances, etc. If we don’t act, things will get out of hand, ”said Lalit Kant, former head of the epidemiology department at the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR).
“A certain complacency has also crept on the side of the government.”
“ The second wave was expected ”
Asked why states such as Maharashtra have seen a massive spike in cases, Reddy said, “These are states with a very high level of economic activity and cities with high crowds. So by the time you start to resume your normal life under crowded conditions – long train journeys, working in crowded factories – you are giving the virus a chance to spread. “
Public health expert and epidemiologist Dr Giridhara R Babu told Al Jazeera he was “not surprised” by the increase in COVID-19 infections across India.
“It’s not surprising. A second wave was expected, but what is surprising is why some states are not getting it, ”he said, adding that it could be due to“ weak testing and poor health infrastructure in the country. other states ”.
Global health, bioethics and health policy researcher Dr Anant Bhan said infections are not confined to a few states and could spread to others.
India’s health ministry said on Thursday that 400 coronavirus patients in the country had been affected by three mutant variants first detected in the UK, South Africa and Brazil. Of those, 158 cases have been reported in the past two weeks, he said.
“Either we have these variants coming up, or we have our own national variants that have developed and are more contagious,” Bhan said.
Amid the surge in cases, several Indian cities have announced measures, including nighttime curfews and bans on religious and political gatherings, to contain the spread of the disease.
India began its vaccination campaign for health care and other frontline workers at the end of January, with more than 35 million doses of the vaccine administered to date.
Health experts, however, believe the country needs to do more, given its huge population.
“The pace of vaccination is slow. India has a large population and only a small segment has been vaccinated so far, ”said Lalit Kant, former head of the epidemiology department at the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR).
“Vaccination is not the reason for the increase in cases, but we need to speed up vaccination to have better control,” he added.
But experts are also insisting that people adhere to the coronavirus guidelines and wear face masks. “We have to get back to basics,” Reddy said.
Bhan said India must take serious action to avoid another lockdown. “But if the cases continued to increase, it [lockdown] could be a possibility.