Roughly two-thirds of all Indians above the age of six have, at some point, been infected with the SARS-CoV2 virus – which causes the COVID-19 disease – the government said this evening, as it announced the results of the fourth national serosurvey.
This means around 40 crore people are still at risk of infection, the government added, as it warned against laxity in following Covid-appropriate behaviour and urged them to get vaccinated.
“The implications of the fourth serosurvey clearly show there is a ray of hope, but there is no room for complacency. We must maintain Covid-appropriate behaviour…” Dr Balram Bhargava, chief of the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), said.
A survey of 36,227 people, including 7,252 healthcare workers, conducted across 70 districts in 21 states in June-July indicated 67.6 per cent of Indians over the age of six had COVID-19 antibodies.
Over 50 per cent of all children between the age of six and 17 also had the antibodies. Among healthcare workers 85 per cent had the antibodies, and only a tenth were as yet unvaccinated.
The 67.6 per cent figure is a steep increase from the results of the third national serosurvey.
Conducted between December and January, months before the second wave of infections, it suggested only 21 per cent of those over 10 showed evidence of exposure to COVID-19.
The second wave of infections hit India hard, with lakhs of new cases reported every day and thousands dying daily, although reports suggest the actual numbers were much higher.
Medical experts and doctors have warned of a third wave of infections that could strike “within weeks”: last month AIIMS (Delhi) chief Dr Randeep Guleria said it was “inevitable”, and that the main challenge now is vaccinating enough people to minimise its impact.
Concerns over a third Covid wave crashing into India have been heightened by an alarming laxity by people in following even the most basic of protocols – wearing face masks and maintaining social distance in public places.
Images last week of crowded city markets and thousands of tourists flocking to hill stations, as well as some states allowing large religious gatherings, prompted a critical reaction from members of the public and medical experts, including the country’s top doctors’ body – the IMA.
Prime Minister Modi has urged people to follow Covid protocols, warning them that failure to do so will invite the virus to spread more aggressively and infect lakhs more people.
This morning India recorded 30,093 new cases in 24 hours – the lowest in four months.
And while that should be cause for celebration, experts have flagged worrying signs, including a steady increase in the ‘R’ factor, or reproduction rate, of the virus.
A similarly steady increase was witnessed ahead of the second wave breaking out.
Concerns have also been raised over the slow pace of daily vaccinations, which dipped from a record high of over 80 lakh doses on June 21 to a seven-day average of 38.62 lakh on Monday.