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India’s Coronavirus Cases: AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria Says India Could See Further Rise In COVID-19 Cases In Festive Season

As India unlocks with the fourth phase of guidelines, NDTV speaks with the Director of AIIMS, Dr Randeep Guleria to know about India’s coronavirus cases and why the country is experiencing the surge

India's Coronavirus Cases: AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria Says India Could See Further Rise In COVID-19 Cases In Festive Season
Highlights
  • On Sunday, India registered a record new 78,761 coronavirus cases
  • India has been recording over 75,000 cases from last few days
  • Dr Guleria warns that the festive season could see a further rise in cases

New Delhi: On Sunday (August 30), India registered a record new 78,761 coronavirus cases, the world’s highest single-day increase since the pandemic began. On Monday, the country continued to report a daily high in terms of new coronavirus infections with 78,512 cases, slightly fewer than the previous day. With the record surge, the total cases in the country as of August 31 stands at 36,21,245, according to the data released by the Union Health Ministry. The R-Rate which is the reproduction rate, which measures how infectious the virus is, in India, in last 3-4 days has indicated a turnaround from the earlier declining trend in terms of new cases positivity rate. And the trend of the last 10 days in the country are worrying and not just at all India level but also 10 of the bigger states in India are now showing signs of the second surge.

Also Read: Unlock 4 Guidelines: Metros Can Resume, No Lockdowns Outside Containment Zones, Experts Urge Extra Vigilance From People

NDTV speaks with the Director of AIIMS, Dr Randeep Guleria, who warns that the festive season could see a further rise in cases in India. Dr Guleria maintains that not only the rise in cases but even reinfections are expected to be a cause of concerns in the coming months. India’s surge, he says, is not a second wave, but fluctuations in the first wave but advises against crowding or attending large gatherings. Here’s what he has to say about India’s growing coronavirus cases:

Also Read: Five Ways To Limit Potential Exposure To Coronavirus At Indoor Public Spaces

Question: Is Unlock 4 really wise at a time when India’s coronavirus cases are at an all-time high?

Dr. Guleria: The number of cases is definitely increasing and that is what we are all seeing from last few days and what I really suggest is that we are seeing the pandemic in India is spreading to different areas in the country and going to smaller towns and reaching different parts of rural India, which was not happening in the past. So there is pan-India spread which has happened and therefore there is a need to be very-very vigilant in terms of making sure that we develop aggressive strategies of containment zones, aggressive testing, tracking, treating and isolating individuals. At the same time, it has been over six months and I think there is a huge strain in terms of economy and other things as far as country is concerned and the balance needs to be struck. However, we need to be very careful and we cannot have our guard down, firstly because the number of cases in the country are increasing and secondly because we are moving towards a festive season and this would mean more and more people would be coming together because of festive activities.

Question: Is this Coronavirus peak in India or worse is yet to come?

Dr. Guleria: What decides peak in any country is two factors – one is how the society or individuals behave, in India, we still have large number of people who are prone to the infection as shown by the sero-survey results. Therefore, if people will not wear mask or maintain social distancing and follow necessary precautions like hand hygiene then we will continue to report a large number of cases and not be able to flatten the curve. There is lot of community participation that is required in terms of flattening the COVID curve. As we move to the festive season, people need to realise that this time it will all be very different and the festivities will not be like how it was the last year because of the fact if we really get together and start having festivities normally then we will see a surge in coronavirus cases. I hope we are able to flatten the curve by the festival season but there is a possibility that the country can see its peak towards that time.

Also Read: 6 Months On, A Recap Of How The Coronavirus Pandemic Unfolded

Question: Is India at early stage of a second wave as the trend from last few days shows that 10 of the 20 biggest states in India shows signs of second surge?

Dr. Guleria: It is difficult to say that if India is going through a second wave in terms of COVID-19 or is there still fluctuations as far as the first wave is concerned. India was showing downwards trends few days ago and now again we are seeing an uptick, now you can call this as a second wave or fluctuation in the number of cases in the first wave. But the important thing here is to understand that India is opening up and we are seeing a surge in coronavirus cases, we need to address this aggressively and not let the situation go worse or out of control.

Question: As a part of Unlock 4 guidelines, metro services are opening up from September 7, is it safe to travel in a Metro at this point of time?

Dr. Guleria: If we are able to follow the necessary guidelines and make sure that it is not as crowded as it was in past and maintain social distancing and we are sanitising our hands regularly then there should not be a problem in travelling via metros. Globally also if we look at the countries like Europe, the metro services have resumed there as well but they are following the norms very strictly in terms of the number of people inside the metro and the kind of physical distancing required between seats. So, if we are able to do so, I don’t think, we will have problems in travelling.

Question: Unlock 4 also allow gatherings in terms of social, academic, sports, entertainment, cultural, religious, political functions and other congregations with a ceiling of 100 people. Is it safe?

Dr. Guleria: The same thing is applicable here as well, whatever gatherings you do, you have to do it by taking all the necessary precautions. I would say do outdoor as much as possible and bigger area so that there are less chances of people coming close to each other. My only fear is that when you have such gatherings, usually there is something to eat or drink and to do that people will pull down their mask and then there will be crowd close to each other, at this point this is not very advisable.

Question: Is Delhi seeing a second wave of the infection as the national capital has started to reported more cases a day all over again?

Dr. Guleria: For a long time, in Delhi, the cases have been lower than 1000 or 1200 but gradually the cases have started going up in the capital and it is a cause of concern. I think we need to be very aggressive in our containment zones, testing strategy, which we adopted last month and we were able t significantly bring down the number of daily cases. Even in the hospitals, we are seeing a gradual rise in the number of admissions, which had come down previously and for a large time, we also had lot of vacant beds, but that situation is changing and we really need to have an aggressive policy all over again so that we don’t reach a state which we had reached before.

Question: Are younger people more susceptible to COVID-19?

Dr. Guleria: Younger people are the ones who are getting more infection and the reason is that one they travel or go out more and they are the ones who are also following less COVID appropriate behaviour so yes there is more infection in them, however, there is less severe disease in them as compared to elder person. Secondly, if the elder person is infected they are more severe as a result they will either stay at home or get hospitalised, but in younger people mostly the symptoms are mild or they are asymptomatic as a result they don’t get to know that they are infected with the virus, they go out, which in turn infects more and more people.

Question: What are the chances of reinfection of COVID-19?

Dr. Guleria: Reinfections will always remain a cause of concern as it has multiple implications, I think, currently, the number of cases of reinfection of COVID-19 is very few. But the pandemic is still very new and as it advances and we may have more such cases. Over the last few months, we have seen cases where people with mild symptoms had very less antibodies in their system and therefore they were not been able to donate the plasma, which makes them prone to this infection as COVID-19 requires certain amount of immunity.

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

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