Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly told the first meet of his new team of ministers that the sight of crowds should instil “a sense of fear" in people given that the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over. The rise of new variants and the threat they hold of sparking a third wave means that it isn’t time yet to lower our guard. The need for vigilance was echoed by the latest Covid report from the Union Health Ministry, which noted that the country had seen the count of active cases jump slightly after being on downward slope for nearly 55 days. So, where are the cases rising, and what is the news on new variants.
What Is The Latest On India’s Covid Case Load?
The Union Health Ministry on July 8 said that, after clocking a consistent decline, the count of active cases in India increased for the first time in 55 days. As for new cases added, the tally was 45,892, the ministry said. Active cases now make up 1.5% of total cases while the recovery rate is more than 97 per cent.
Further, it was also reported that the weekly test positivity rate was 2.37 per cent, well below the 5 per cent threshold while the daily positivity rate had been less than 3 per cent for 17 consecutive days.
But at the meeting with his new ministerial colleagues, the PM is said to have noted with worry the rise of cases in Kerala and Maharashtra. Last week, the Centre had dispatched teams to six states — Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Manipur — in view of rising Covid-19 cases reported by them.
What Are The Case Numbers In Kerala, Maharashtra?
Since June 9, Kerala has reported more than 10,000 new cases (7-day rolling average) daily on all but a handful of days. During the same period, the country halved its daily reported case load, from above 90,000 to under 45,000. While Kerala was adding significantly higher numbers in May, it has not registered the same sort of decline as have the other states that too were buffeted by the peak of the second wave.
Maharashtra had a series of 60,000+ plus new infection days in April and has seen its case load come down considerably since then. However, the state has been adding more than 8,000 daily cases (7-day rolling average) over the last 30 days.
Reports suggest that the persistently high numbers in Kerala can be partially explained by better surveillance and testing, something that can be said for Maharshtra as well, but given the rise of new variants, some experts are worried whether what is being regarded as the decline of the second wave is not actually the beginnings of the third.
After Delta, Delta-plus, Are There Other Variants That Have Been Found In India?
On July 9, Uttar Pradesh said it had identified two cases of the Kappa variant in the state following genome sequencing of samples. This variant, which is an offshoot of the Delta variant, too, was first identified in India but is designated as a Variant of Interest (VoI) by the World Health Organisation (WHO), whereas the Delta variant has, of course, been billed as a Variant of Concern (VoC).
A VoC is so called because, among other things, it exhibits “increase in transmissibility" and “decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics". A VoI demonstrates “genetic changes that are predicted or known to affect virus characteristics such as transmissibility, disease severity, immune escape, diagnostic or therapeutic escape".
A variant gets a VoI branding if it has been “identified to cause significant community transmission or multiple Covid-19 clusters, in multiple countries with increasing relative prevalence alongside increasing number of cases over time… to suggest an emerging risk to global public health".