Staring at second wave


With an alarming surge in the number of Covid-19 cases, India may well be staring at the second wave of infections, a grim scenario that should be avoided at any cost. At a time when the vaccination drive is slowly gaining momentum, the country can ill-afford any major resurgence in the infections. There is no room for complacency on the part of the authorities nor is there any justification for the general public to drop their guard at this stage. There should be no let-up in following the Covid-19 protocol—wearing masks, maintaining physical distance and hand hygiene. A minor change in trajectory that began towards the second half of February in Maharashtra and Punjab has now become a steady stream of increasing new infections in several parts of the country in the past week. The seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases, called case trajectory, has risen by 67% from 10,988 cases a day in the week ending February 11, to 18,371 cases a day for the week ending March 10, raising fears of the second wave hitting the country. The possible spread of new mutants of the deadly virus and the continued vaccine hesitancy among a section of the people have only added to the growing concerns. While initially, the rise in cases was gradual, it has slowly been gaining pace and has come at a time when restrictions on several economic and social activities have eased, and people and governments are getting complacent, with almost no mask discipline in many parts of the country.

A worrying trend, particularly in the West, is that this second wave of infections has been much more vicious and stronger in terms of the number of daily cases and the rate of spread. Maharashtra, the worst-hit State in the country, has accounted for nearly 57% of the new cases reported across the country in the past one week. Alarmingly, the State has witnessed a rise of 331% in the number of cases during the last one month. Apart from Maharashtra and Punjab, three other States—Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi— have witnessed a sharp rise in infections. Another worrying factor is that the national average positivity rate, a crucial metric to assess the spread of the virus, has gone up from 1.6% in February to 2.6% now. Overcoming the initial hiccups and technical glitches in the Co-WIN portal, the NDA government has finally shed its policy of over-centralisation and allowed greater participation of the private healthcare sector in the vaccination programme. The next step should be to expand the drive to include people of younger age groups so that the coverage can be accelerated because vaccination is the quickest way to check the virus spread.

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