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Is Second Wave Of COVID-19 Over? Positivity Rate Below 5 Per Cent For 15 Days, But Experts Say End Still Far

The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelmed the healthcare system of the country, leaving hospitals struggling to cope with the surge in cases and critical drugs and oxygen in short supply

Is Second Wave Of COVID-19 Over? Positivity Rate Below 5 Per Cent For 15 Days, But Experts Say End Still Far
Highlights
  • Daily COVID-19 cases have declined; test positivity rate is 5% in India
  • Many districts have COVID test positivity rate above 5 per cent: Expert
  • For a country like India, need to have attention on the local level: Expert

New Delhi: India has crossed the important milestone of a Covid positivity rate of less than 5 per cent for 15 consecutive days, conforming to the WHO’s recommended requirement for a region to reopen, but experts are wary of declaring the devastating second wave over. With 42,640 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday (June 22), the lowest in 91 days, and a positivity rate of 3.21 per cent, it would seem the present phase of the COVID-19 crisis is over and it is a good time to lift restrictions. This optimistic picture, however, must be edged with abundant caution, said several scientists, citing the emergence of new variants, the still high absolute number of cases, the many districts where positivity rate remains over 5 per cent and concerns over reliability of data.

Also Read: Delta Plus Variant Of COVID-19 Is Not Yet ‘Variant Of Concern’, Nullifies Monoclonal Antibody Use: Government

With the current positivity rate at less than 5 per cent, India’s COVID-19 second wave is on the wane as quickly as it rushed to its peak, but the end of it may yet be far away as more transmissible new variants such as Delta plus variant are emerging, said Naga Suresh Veerapu, associate professor at the School of Natural Sciences (SoNS), Shiv Nadar University, Delhi NCR.

The Delta plus variant has been formed due to a mutation in the Delta or B.1.617.2 variant, first identified in India and considered one of the drivers of the second wave in the country and also in several others including the UK.

The test positivity rate or TPR — the percentage of all coronavirus tests performed that turn out to be positive — is an important metric through which the public health system keeps tabs on the level of Covid transmission. The WHO recommends that test positivity should remain at 5 per cent or lower for 14 days before countries or regions reopen.

In February this year, the country was celebrating the end of the first wave and conveniently ignored an imminent second wave, Mr Veerapu said.

The Delta variant that emerged in March spread across the different parts of India, then cases surged to the peak yielding a second wave. The second wave conjoined with the first when the latter was at 1 per cent positivity rate, he told PTI.

Also Read: How Worrying Is The Delta Variant Of COVID-19? Are Vaccines Effective Against The Variant? Expert Speaks

Public policy expert Chandrakant Lahariya added that while cases are on the decline, the absolute number of cases are still very high.

While the national level test positivity rate has come down, there are still many districts where TPR is above 5 per cent, the Delhi-based physician-epidemiologist and health systems expert told PTI.

“Therefore, before saying that the second wave is over, I would like to wait for the TPR to come down below 5 per cent everywhere and sustain for two weeks or longer,” he said.

Scientist Gautam Menon agreed with Mr Lahariya, noting that some states such as Kerala are still seeing positivity rates over 5 per cent. He added that it is unclear whether this reflects just better testing than other states or if the situation is still to improve there. Positivity rate was 10.84 per cent in Kerala on Sunday (June 20).

According to Health Ministry data on Monday, India’s total tally of COVID-19 cases is 2,99,35,221 (2.99 crore/29.9 million) while active cases reduced to 7,02,887. On Tuesday, the numbers improved further with active cases falling below 7 lakh after 79 days. The death toll climbed to 3,89,302 with 1,167 daily fatalities, the lowest in 68 days.

Also Read: Coronavirus Explained: What Are COVID Variants And Variants Of Concern?

The second wave of the pandemic overwhelmed the healthcare system of the country, leaving hospitals struggling to cope with the surge in cases and critical drugs and oxygen in short supply. Infections have now slowed down and restrictions have been relaxed in most states. Agreeing that the drop in India’s cases has been quite dramatic, Mr Menon noted, “From all we know, this is a genuine decline, both in urban and rural India.”

There is no strict definition of a ‘wave’, let alone of how and when it might be ending, but this is a good time as any to consider opening up, although with caution, Mr Menon, professor, Departments of Physics and Biology, Ashoka University in Haryana, told PTI.

The experts also believe test positivity rates provide valuable information only if testing is broadly accessible across all regions.

Test positivity, when these tests are carried out on a random sample of the population and in sufficient quantity, is likely the best metric to dictate opening up, although we must be careful about local pockets where the level of infections have been lower than average and where the disease could still take off, said Mr Menon.

“What we need to remember is that for a country the size of India, we need to have enough attention on the local level,” Mr Lahariya added.

Also Read: From Creating Role Models To Vaccinating At Home, Here’s How J&K’s Bandipora District Has Rolled Out COVID Vaccination

He explained that COVID-19 is not just any other respiratory illness and decision-making parameters cannot be simple.

We know that there are new variants which are more transmissible. We know that human behaviour determines the spread of this virus. Therefore, it is not very relevant if we declare whether the second wave is over or not, the public policy expert explained.

“Key is, are we prepared to respond to the rise in cases? That’s where the attention has to be,” Mr Lahariya said.

Widespread concerns about the accuracy of data, relating to both deaths and cases, also need to be factored in, said Mr Menon. Though anecdotally, decline in cases appears to be true, media and other reports suggest that deaths have been severely undercounted, sometimes by a factor of 10.

I hope these reports will spur states to be transparent with their numbers, he said.

Also Read: Third Wave Of COVID-19 Can Be Stopped If Preventive Measures Are Followed: Dr. V. K. Paul, NITI Aayog Member

Mr Lahariya said India has sub-optimally performing mechanisms for medical certification of causes of deaths (MCCD). Even before the pandemic, the causes of deaths used to be certified in only one-fourth of registered deaths.

Therefore, it is not unthinkable that even in some cases of COVID-19 deaths; deaths have not been certified correctly, the scientist added.

Mr Veerapu said asymptomatic people and some with mild symptoms may not even turn up for testing, therefore leading to the underestimation of cases. However, he said the waning second wave provides enough opportunities to minimise the spread of the disease.

We should ramp up the vaccination drive, consolidate the health infrastructure to minimise the impact of the much anticipated third wave, and hone the public health strategies to prevent, control and respond to the third wave, he added.

Also Read: ‘Lifeline’ Tech Helps Poor Rural Women Get Through India’s COVID-19 Crisis

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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

World

24,06,78,961Cases
20,23,40,977Active
3,34,39,331Recovered
48,98,653Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 24,06,78,961 and 48,98,653 have died; 20,23,40,977 are active cases and 3,34,39,331 have recovered as on October 18, 2021 at 4:17 am.

India

3,40,81,315 13,596Cases
1,89,6946,152Active
3,34,39,331 19,582Recovered
4,52,290 166Deaths
In India, there are 3,40,81,315 confirmed cases including 4,52,290 deaths. The number of active cases is 1,89,694 and 3,34,39,331 have recovered as on October 18, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

65,91,697 1,715

32,230 994

64,19,678 2,680

1,39,789 29

Kerala

48,54,321 7,555

88,186 3,292

47,39,270 10,773

26,865 74

Karnataka

29,83,459 326

9,479 58

29,36,039 380

37,941 4

Tamil Nadu

26,87,092 1,218

14,814 208

26,36,379 1,411

35,899 15

Andhra Pradesh

20,60,472 432

6,034 159

20,40,131 586

14,307 5

Uttar Pradesh

17,10,028 9

119 10

16,87,011 19

22,898

West Bengal

15,80,530 624

7,421 24

15,54,132 634

18,977 14

Delhi

14,39,390 32

320 6

14,13,981 38

25,089

Odisha

10,35,077 443

4,542 68

10,22,250 508

8,285 3

Chhattisgarh

10,05,654 16

183 2

9,91,901 14

13,570

Rajasthan

9,54,390 2

42 2

9,45,394 4

8,954

Gujarat

8,26,290 10

207 6

8,15,997 16

10,086

Madhya Pradesh

7,92,684 5

84 12

7,82,077 17

10,523

Haryana

7,71,076 15

123 9

7,60,904 6

10,049

Bihar

7,26,026 5

48 4

7,16,317 1

9,661

Telangana

6,68,955 122

3,924 55

6,61,093 176

3,938 1

Assam

6,06,468 205

3,436 46

5,97,082 245

5,950 6

Punjab

6,02,035 27

227 8

5,85,264 16

16,544 3

Jharkhand

3,48,430 7

122 1

3,43,173 8

5,135

Uttarakhand

3,43,756 9

178 1

3,36,181 8

7,397

Jammu And Kashmir

3,31,062 95

843 12

3,25,793 107

4,426

Himachal Pradesh

2,21,437 131

1,303 5

2,16,414 125

3,720 1

Goa

1,77,522 60

604 6

1,73,572 62

3,346 4

Puducherry

1,27,396 52

585 13

1,24,961 64

1,850 1

Manipur

1,22,737 104

1,422 0

1,19,418 102

1,897 2

Mizoram

1,12,848 249

11,633 1,143

1,00,829 1,389

386 3

Tripura

84,321 16

104 4

83,401 12

816

Meghalaya

82,953 55

845 32

80,673 86

1,435 1

Chandigarh

65,302 3

25 3

64,457 6

820

Arunachal Pradesh

54,987 7

140 30

54,567 37

280

Sikkim

31,749 4

174 8

31,184 12

391

Nagaland

31,611 40

248 12

30,689 28

674

Ladakh

20,878 2

36 10

20,634 12

208

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,676 1

4 1

10,668

4

Lakshadweep

10,365

0 0

10,314

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,641

9 0

7,503

129

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