The government said on Wednesday a third phase of the coronavirus pandemic was “inevitable", but it is not clear on what time scale this phase would occur and hence, we should be prepared for the same. The Union Health Ministry held a briefing on the current COVID-10 situation and the vaccination programme underway in the country. Senior officials said the long COVID wave of such “ferocity" that the country was experiencing currently “was not predicted". Twelve states, including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh, have more than 1 lakh active COVID cases, the government said.
Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Bihar are among the states that show an increasing trend in daily cases, it said. The government also said that 24 states and UTs show more than 15 per cent COVID positivity rate.
Officials said there are some areas of concern, like Bengaluru reporting around 1.49 lakh cases in last one week. Some districts, including Kozhikode, Ernakulam and Gurugram, have recorded a rapid spread of cases. An increase in deaths has also been noticed too with Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, and Haryana reporting more fatalities.
“Phase three is inevitable given the higher levels of circulating virus, but it is not clear on what time-scale this phase three will occur. We should be prepared for new waves," said K Vijay Raghavan, the principal scientific advisor to the Centre. Stating that new variants of the virus are more transmissible, Raghavan said these strains infect humans in a manner that make them more transmissible “as it gains entry, makes more copies and goes on, same as original."
He said scientists across the world are working to anticipate the new variants and act against them rapidly by early warning and developing modified tools. “It’s an intense research program, happening in India and abroad," he said, adding that vaccines are effective against current variants.
From May 1, 6.71 lakh people in the age group of 18-44 years in nine states have been administered the vaccines, it added. NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr VK Paul requested “physicians’ fraternity" to come forward and provide teleconsultations to people and families at home who are infected with coronavirus.
“The response to the changing virus remains the same. We need to follow the COVID- appropriate behaviour such as mask, distancing, hygiene, no unnecessary meetings and staying at home," Dr Paul said. In reply to a question, he said that the disease is not spreading through animals, but through human to human transmission.
Union Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said that the foreign aid coming from abroad is being monitored by a group of senior officials. “Our technical wing has made guidelines to see that what hospital would the equipment be suitable for. The equipment is being sent to hospitals where an immediate need has been felt," he said. Agarwal also said that 11 districts in Maharashtra are showing continuous decline in COVID cases since the last 14 days, while some districts like Satara and Solapur show a continued increase in such cases over the last two weeks. He also said that the government is making continuous efforts to build capacities of all healthcare facilities across the country.
The government further said the UK variant (B.1.1.7) of the virus is showing a declining trend, while the double mutant (B1.617 lineage) has been seen in Maharashtra.
(With inputs from agencies)