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India should brace for a third Covid wave, it is inevitable, scientific advisor to Modi govt warns

Professor K. VijayRaghavan, principal scientific advisor to the Modi government also said that vaccines work against all variants of the virus.

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New Delhi: A third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is inevitable, warned Professor K. VijayRaghavan, principal scientific advisor to the Government of India, even as India reels under the second wave that has seen the country’s Covid burden climb sharply on a daily basis.

“Phase 1 was a generalist approach of the virus, phase 2 now has fitter viruses arising out of increasing post-immunity due to previous infection. Variants of concern represent better adaptation and are triggered by human population. So everything we can do to prevent the spread of the virus is very critical. What next? Phase 3 is inevitable given high levels of circulating virus, but it is not clear what timescales this will occur in. We have to be prepared in every way to tackle it,” VijayRaghavan said while talking about the behavioural patterns of the virus and of the Indian population that have led to the second wave.

Replying to a question about whether the country is now in community transmission, Niti Aayog member, Dr V.K. Paul said, “There is no standard definition of terms like community transmission. We have defined our approach to pandemic control — testing, tracking, containment, treatment, vaccination etc. These essential activities do not change.”

Both Dr Paul and Prof. VijayRaghavan emphasised that vaccines work against all variants.

“Many factors contributed to this wave and variants are but one factor. The first wave declined because as infections rose, so did immunity. Caution increased, and there was less opportunity for infection to spread. Combination of high immunity and high caution brought the wave under control. As caution declined, new opportunities rose for the virus to spread… a second wave was expected, but multiple parameters can change and add to a second wave that is bigger than the first,” VijayRaghavan said.

The two experts also said that detailed guidelines were given to the government on ways to break the chain of transmission of the virus, and the need for lockdowns.

Meanwhile, in an update on the Covid situation in the country, Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said that while the number of daily new cases has plateaued in states such as Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, there is still an upward trend in new cases in states such as Delhi and West Bengal.


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On national lockdown

Replying to a question about the need for a national lockdown, Dr Paul said: “When infection spread is more, along with other measures, movement restrictions are imposed on people. In this context detailed guidelines were imposed on 29 April, on how to break the chain of transmission. Where test positivity is higher than 10 per cent or ICU occupancy is above 60 per cent, states can impose night curfews. Also, there is a ban on sports complexes, religious places, malls etc., and states have to decide on this. There is a clear advisory on this and based on this, states are deciding … in addition to this, if anything else is required, those options are always being discussed and decisions would be taken as required.”

Officials from the Department of Biotechnology (under the Ministry of Science and Technology) and the National Centre for Disease Control gave detailed presentations on the modalities for genome analysis. So far, over 18,000 samples have been analysed of a total of over 2 crore cases reported in the country.


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24 states have over 15% positivity

Joint Secretary Agarwal said that 24 states have over 15 per cent positivity, 10 states have between 5 and 15 per cent positivity and in only three states is the positivity less than 5 per cent. Goa has a positivity of 48 per cent.

Twelve states currently have more than one lakh active cases each. These are Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Bihar and Haryana. However, Agarwal claimed that states such as Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Jharkhand are now showing signs of their daily cases plateauing.

Agarwal said that states showing a trend of a continuing increase in daily cases are Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Bihar and Haryana. Of the top five states, where there is an increasing trend in daily cases, three have just elected new assemblies and experts had warned that election rallies could be the biggest super spreader events possible.

Districts where there is a continued increase in cases over the past two weeks include Srikakulam and Godavari in Andhra Pradesh, Palakkad in Kerala, Kanpur Nagar in Uttar Pradesh, Tumkur in Karnataka, Indore in Madhya Pradesh and Faridabad in Haryana.

He also refuted allegations that there have been delays of several days in the custom clearance of foreign aid coming into the country, and said that a dedicated cell is ensuring that all these items are headed on their way to the intended destinations within a few hours of arrival.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)


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