As the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infects more and more people across the country, many people want to know why are daily cases flaring up so sharply in India? Scientists have given three reasons for it.
One of the reasons for the spread of the infection is the emerging mutants – both imported and homegrown. “A new double mutant has emerged in India and is reported in 15-20 per cent of cases analysed from Maharashtra. If this percentage goes up further, it would be a clear indication of its role in the Maharashtra surge,” virologists Shahid Jameel told news agency PTI.
In India, variants first identified in the UK, South Africa and Brazil have been found.
In late March, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) announced that a new variant had been identified in samples of saliva taken from people in Maharashtra, Delhi and Punjab.
The genome sequencing carried out by Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG), a consortium of 10 labs in India, identified two important mutations in the variant dubbed as “double mutant”.
Explaining that the UK variant is known to be about 50 per cent more infectious, Jameel said one of the two mutations in the double mutant was also found in California, US, where it was associated with increased transmission.
Next comes the lowering of guard by the people of India – something that the government too has highlighted and urged people of the country to keep following Covid-appropriate behaviour.
“Everything opening up to pre-Covid levels and behaviour that was no longer risk-averse exposed the susceptible population in a big way,” said Jameel.
“The speed of spread in the second wave is twice as fast as in the first wave. Partly due to variants and partly lowering of the guard,” explained another virologist T Jacob John, a professor at Tamil Nadu’s Christian Medical College (CMC).
Talking about the vaccination drive, Jameel said the government needs to speed it up. “For various reasons, those eligible, including healthcare and frontline workers, were hesitant to get vaccines. Those above 60 also did not show enough eagerness even though cases had started going up by early March. Now we are on a very fast rising curve with only 0.7 per cent Indians having received both doses and only about 5 per cent having received one dose. That is too low to make an impact,” said Jameel.
Apart from this, a recent study by the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) said that 20% to 30% of those infected with Covid-19 lose immunity after six months. This has also been pointed out by health experts as one of the reasons why people who have already recovered from Covid-19, catch the infection again.
According to scientists, including those from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Kanpur, the ongoing second-wave could peak by mid-April, following which the infections may see a steep decline by the end of May.
India recorded 161,736 fresh Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, the Union health ministry data showed on Tuesday. With this, the infection tally has crosses 13.68 million mark. The country also recorded 879 related fatalities in the said period, which pushed the death toll to 171,058.
The situation in Maharashtra and Delhi is particularly bad – the national capital recorded 11,491 fresh cases of the infection on Monday, its highest-ever single-day tally. Four other states also reported their respective single-day spike on Monday.