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‘Low booster dose uptake, restrictions lifted too soon’ — factors driving Mumbai Covid surge

Cases have risen by more than 7 times in the last month. Health Minister Tope says Omicron sub-variants playing a role, asks people to wear masks even though they aren’t compulsory.

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Mumbai: A total of 676 cases of Covid-19 were recorded in Mumbai Monday, more than seven times the city’s daily tally around a month ago, with a steady uptick seen over the weekend, according to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) data.

Meanwhile, the Covid positivity rate stood at 10 per cent.

As many as 763 cases were recorded Friday, 889 Saturday, and 961 Sunday. 

The Covid positivity rate also went up during this period — 10.9 per cent Sunday from 8 per cent Saturday.   

Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope has attributed the spike to two sub-variants of the Omicron variant — BA.4 and BA.5 — as well as low vaccination and uptake of booster doses.

“We are seeing that the cases are rising in six districts across the state including Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Palghar. What we are seeing is that the positivity rate and contagiousness is high and Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5 are being seen around currently,” he told reporters after briefing the cabinet about the issue Monday.

Tope also said that while wearing masks is not compulsory in Mumbai, people should “wear masks on their own”. 

“Low vaccination drive and people not taking precautionary dose is also one of the main reasons why cases are going up,” the minister added.

Medical professionals ThePrint spoke to said the “early lifting of restrictions” may have played a role in the Covid surge. The Maharashtra government lifted all Covid restrictions, including the mask mandate, on 2 April, when the state celebrated ‘Gudi Padwa’.

“Despite the new sub-variant being found, which is expected in the case of a mutating virus, we are seeing a rise in cases because restrictions were lifted and people are not following Covid protocols and crowding at places, along with low vaccination drive,” said Dr Avinash Bhondve, former president of the Indian Medical Association, Maharashtra. 

“The Omicron wave that spread in December-January had BA.1 and BA.2, which spread very rapidly. The virulence here is a bit less so hospitalisation will be low. But senior citizens, those having comorbidities, and those who didn’t take the vaccine will be at risk,” he added.

City-based physician Dr Deepak Baid said there was no need to panic, but preventive measures needed to be followed. “Wearing masks in crowded places and following Covid-appropriate behaviour is the only solution. Luckily, there is low hospitalisation currently, but we have to wear masks whenever we are out.”

Along with metro cities, the health department has also asked other districts to ramp up testing, read a press note released by the state government Friday. 

On Monday, out of 15,988 tests conducted across the state, 1,036 (6 per cent positivity) were positive for Covid, according to the state health bulletin. 


Also Read: 55% severe Covid patients still have at least one symptom two years later, finds Lancet study


Govt ‘not thinking of restrictions just yet’

Since hospitalisation is low, Tope said, there is not much need to worry. 

“We are not thinking of restrictions just yet but booster dose has to be taken,” he added.

Last week, the BMC had warned that symptomatic cases may rise further with the onset of monsoon. It had also issued an advisory directing its staff to be alert, increase testing “on war footing” and push harder for vaccination of the 12-18 age group apart from booster doses.

The civic body had also directed all its wards to ensure that jumbo field hospitals (makeshift Covid hospitals built during the first and second waves) are kept adequately staffed.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)


Also Read: Blame it on Covid: Fewer Indians taking to booze, those who drink are drinking more, finds NFHS


 

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