Rajat Sharma

Third wave is here: Utmost caution is a must

AKBThe New Year 2022 has dawned with an ominous warning. The Coronovirus enemy that we in India defeated last year, has started raising its head again with a big surge in number of daily Covid cases. Till five days ago, there were less than 10,000 new daily cases, but on Monday it was nearly 34,000. In several cities, the positivity rate has crossed five per cent which is considered dangerous. In Delhi it is more than six per cent, in Mumbai it is more than 8 per cent, and in Goa, the positivity rate is 11 per cent. Positivity rate means the proportion of cases found positive.

This, at a time, when in winter, people normally suffer from cough, cold and fever, which they consider viral, and avoid undergoing RT-PCR test. Experts believe the number of active cases could be much more if nationwide tests are conducted. As of now, there are more than 1.5 lakh active cases in India, out of which Omicron variant cases account for only 1,700.

The speed with which Covid cases are spreading is staggering. In the last 24 hours, 33,750 new cases were reported and there were 123 deaths. The spread is not only in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, but is also in other cities like Bhopal, Jaipur, Lucknow, Patna, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Surat, Gurugram, Gandhinagar, Noida, Ghaziabad and Chandigarh. The virus is spreading fast in bulk, for example in IIT Kharagpur, where 31 students were tested positive, in Patna Nalanda Medical College Hospital, where 96 persons including doctors and medical staff were tested positive. The Centre has put a stop to biometric attendance for its employees, because the machines could spread the virus. Staff attendance in both central government and Delhi government offices has been curtailed.

In my prime time show Aaj Ki Baat on Monday night, we showed visuals of huge crowds that had descended on Goa’s famous Baga beach to celebrate New Year eve. Soon after, the state reported a surge in Covid cases. Similarly, more than 2,000 people who had travelled in Cordelia luxury cruise ship from Mumbai to Goa are now facing problems. Covid cases have been reported among many of them. Similarly, in Patna, at Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Durbar, several staff were tested positive, resulting in a scare.

Mumbai is also emerging as an epicentre of Covid pandemic. During the last 24 hours, 8,082 new cases were reported. Nearly 500 Covid patients have been hospitalized, out of whom 56 patients are on oxygen support. Several film stars including John Abraham and Prem Chopra along with their family members have been tested positive. In Delhi, the daily surge in Covid cases has gone up to 4,099. Eighty four percent of these cases are of Omicron variant. There are more than 11,000 active cases in Delhi, out of which only 202 people have been hospitalized.

The rate at which the third wave of pandemic is surging is alarming. Maharashtra government officials fear a tsunami-type surge in cases, while Delhi government expected the daily case number to surge beyond 50 thousand. If the trend continues, India may again witness a daily surge of 14 lakh Covid cases. On April 21 last year, during the second wave of pandemic, the daily number of cases was 4.14 lakh, but this time the number is feared to be several times bigger. While the Centre and state government are enforcing restrictions, people will have to be cautious, and refrain from joining crowds. As of now, the situation in India is under control compared to countries like Russia, England, USA, Italy and France.

The Omicron variant may be less dangerous compared to Delta variant, but it spreads like lightning. Since the symptoms are mild, people generally avoid taking tests. The variant is also asymptomatic. In the process, those infected with Omicron are unknowingly spreading the virus at lightning speed.

Caution is the only medicine, because there is no drug available yet to cure Coronavirus. There is a silver lining. On Monday, when vaccination for teenagers in 15-18 age group began, there was huge enthusiasm and more than 40 lakh teenagers got themselves vaccinated. We must remember: Vaccine is our protective shield. If the virus strikes, it may not harm us and lead to hospitalization. People should avoid crowds, practise social distancing, wear masks, and wash their hands frequently. This is the only method to tackle the third wave that has come.

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