With India in the unlock 3.0 phase, experts say India has not even touched the peak of coronavirus cases. (Photo: PTI)
Across the world, nations have begun to witness what experts are calling a second wave of coronavirus infections. Spain reported 0 deaths and 71 new coronavirus cases on June 1 when its death toll stood at 27,127 and total cases were 239,638. The country began reporting over 1000 new cases every day after July 30 after lockdown restrictions were lifted mainly in the regions of Madrid, Aragon and Barcelona. Its death toll now stands at 28,499 and total cases are at 352,847.
The resurgence has prompted some countries like France and Norway to impose fresh restrictions on movement and Britain to impose a quarantine on travellers from Spain. UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “Let’s be absolutely clear about what’s happening in Europe, amongst some of our European friends. I’m afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic”. In the middle east, Israel, where once the virus was under control, is averaging at more than 1700 infections per day.
Meanwhile, a state of disaster has been declared in Australia’s state of Victoria- the epicentre of the second coronavirus wave in the country. It has imposed a ‘state of disaster’ following a big spike in cases. The new rules entail a night-time curfew and restrictions on residents’ ability to leave homes. Australia has over 17,000 cases and 718 deaths. The World Healht Organisation (WHO) recently said that the virus is unfolding in one big wave, with no evidence that it is impacted by seasons. But it predicted that the pandemic is likely to go on for a long time.
India has not touched a ‘peak’ in coronavirus infections yet: experts
With India in the unlock 3.0 phase, experts say India has not even touched the peak of coronavirus cases. “We have not even got over the first peak in India. Our graph is still going up in a straight line. The issue of the second wave will arise once we show a decline in the cases. It is only then that we can see another peak,” said Dr Lalit Kant, former scientist ‘G’ and head (Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases Division), Indian Council of Medical Research.
Many statements in the past indicated that the number of cases could peak by July 2020. Then, several experts said the peak could come by mid-September. However, a lot depends on government’s efforts and public behaviour.
“In Delhi, however, it appears that we are approaching a peak and then may go down. According to the sero-survey, four out of five people in Delhi have still not been exposed to coronavirus, which means many are still susceptible. However, a second wave of coronavirus infections cannot be ruled out either,” said Dr Kant.
“We need to establish that the curve has been contained well. The RT (or the reproductive number) has fallen below one. Which means we could prove that we have been able to bend the curve. Once it goes to a rock bottom and then comes up, we call that a second wave. I don’t see that happening in India because we may have a prolonged plateau, rather than dipping to the bottom and emerging as a second wave. It will take some time. Hopefully, we will have a vaccine by then to take care of the first curve itself,” said Dr Giridhar Babu, epidemiologist and member of the national task force of coronavirus in India.
Dr Kant added that the coronavirus infections could increase due to the monsoon. “Secondly, the influenza season starts with the monsoon. The symptoms of influenza are almost similar to Covid-19. People are currently only testing for coronavirus. If they get flu symptoms, both infections could become an addition to already existing problems”, he said.
When will India see a second wave of coronavirus infections?
When asked if some countries were witnessing a second wave of coronavirus infection, Rajesh Bhushan, the Officer on Special Duty, Ministry of Health said that reopening does lead to a spike in numbers in certain areas. “Certain countries in the world are witnessing a fresh spate of cases, but I would not call it a second wave as yet. As for India, he said, the country has been very graded in its response. We have not gone in for a sudden opening of the various activities. It has been a graded opening, that is accompanied by strong messaging by the Union and state governments about coronavirus appropriate behaviour,” he said.
ICMR chief Dr Balram Bhargava said has said that it is difficult to predict whether or not India will see a second wave of Covid-19 infections and there will be smaller peaks at different times due to varied geography of the country. “We have also seen immense variations in the spread of infection and mortality rates in different geographies and across different demographics around the world. So, it is difficult to predict whether or not India will see a second wave of infections. There is also a wide variation in disease distribution in specific states – so one size cannot fit all,” he said.
Countries have also begun to put in place plans to contain the second wave of infections. In Belgium, an 83-page document plan to fight infection and keep the spread localised has been proposed. First is to increase the number of coronavirus tests per day by the end of September. The second is to intercept a new wave of infections with local, regional or national lockdown.