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New COVID Strains And An Impending Lockdown: Maharashtra’s Latest COVID-19 Crisis 

Maharashtra has reported a sharp spike for the eighth straight day with over 3,000 new COVID-19 cases, while Mumbai reported 721 new cases. Authorities may be imposing another lockdown in the state if the situation continued to worsen

New COVID Strains And An Impending Lockdown: Maharashtra’s Latest COVID-19 Crisis
Highlights
  • Mumbai, Amravati, Akola and Yavatmal are observing a spike in COVID cases
  • Mumbai reported 897 new cases on February 21
  • Maharashtra government may impose a stricter lockdown in these districts

New Delhi: As Maharashtra remains one of the worst-hit states, with the maximum number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the country, several cases of coronavirus mutation have been observed in the state, a senior scientist informed NDTV. Dr TP Lahane, the Director of Medical Education and Research, Maharashtra said that they are yet to observe behaviour including how fast or slow the new variant infects people, Dr Lahane also pointed out that it is ‘too early to call it a strain’.

Also Read: India Fights COVID-19: What Can Be Done To Speed Up Vaccination In The Country?

It is early days yet and more sequencing and study needs to be carried out to know about the ‘infectiveness’ of the mutant variety. The scientists are doing gene sequencing for this and the results will be available in 10 to 15 days. A detailed study has to be conducted.

Maharashtra is witnessing a surge in cases after a two-month calm. The state reported 6,971 fresh cases and 2,417 recoveries in the last 24 hours. As per the state health department, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Maharashtra reached 21,00,884. The number of active cases stands at 52,956 in Maharashtra. Meanwhile, Mumbai recorded more than almost 900 cases for a second straight day, pushing the authorities to impose fresh restrictions like banning all types of public gatherings.

Amid increasing cases of coronavirus in Maharashtra, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has given a stern warning to the people of the state and said there will be a total lockdown if people don’t start wearing face masks.

Lockdown will not start all of a sudden. We aren’t putting a stop to any development works. Lockdown will start from tomorrow evening wherever needed, the Maharashtra CM said.

Calling the coronavirus situation in Maharashtra “serious”, CM Thackeray informed that the coming eight days will decide whether there will be a lockdown in the state as daily COVID cases continue to rise.

Lax attitude among authorities as well as citizens, when it comes to observing COVID safety measures, Dr Lahane told NDTV,

I think the spike is because of this and not because it is a new strain and it is too early to say that it is a new strain.

Also Read: COVID-19 Vaccine Explainer: How Do Vaccines Work?

Dr Subhash Salunke, Senior Advisor, Public Health Foundation of India – Maharashtra, also tells NDTV that the spike in the cases could be attributed multiple factors but primarily because people collectively are flouting COVID-19 safety protocols.

People have forgotten or are not bothered about the existence of the global pandemic. Now that life is back to normal in a lot of regions in the country, no one is looking at the numbers of COVID-19 cases. Also, there are many public gatherings taking place, be it in hotels, malls, restaurants, or weddings, these are definitely a contributing factor to the rising cases. No COVID appropriate behaviour is being observed in the state – be it social distancing or wearing masks. Lastly, in Amravati or Akola, some virus changes have been observed wherein the infectivity is increased.

As per Dr Lahane, the sequencing tests were conducted in Amaravati, Akola and Yavatmal districts of the state. The mutations have been found in three samples in Amaravati, three in Yavatmal and two in Akola. The results came in on Tuesday, Dr Lahane said and the tests were started 15 days ago.

It takes near about eight to 10 days to do the sequencing and in that, we have seen a change in sequence of the spike protein, he told NDTV.

As per (Indian Council of Medical Research) ICMR data, the South African strain of the virus has been detected in four people and the Brazil variant seen in one; while there are 187 cases of the UK strain.

You can say a few things with this strain are consistent with the United Kingdom strain, but it is not an actual United Kingdom variety. It is some different mutation that we have seen in the cases in the three districts, and for that to figure out its characteristics we have to do more sequencing, Dr Lahane said.

The scientists now need to observe the mutation, calculate its infectivity and if it is more, figure out precautions, surveillance and other things.

Also Read: Amravati Surge Due To Mutation, People’s Carelessness: Maharashtra Official

Is A Statewide Lockdown The Answer?

With the rise, the authorities have imposed a weekend lockdown from Saturday evening to Monday morning in Amravati. While, in Yavatmal, schools and colleges will remain closed till February 28. Restaurants and wedding halls will operate but with less than 50 per cent capacity and assembly of five or more people will not be allowed.

In Mumbai, the Mumbai Mayor, Kishori Pednekar warned the citizens that it is in their hands to avert another COVID-induced lockdown by wearing masks and maintaining social distance. She said,

Rising number of cases is a matter of concern. 60 out of 100 people travelling in trains don’t wear masks. People must take precautions else we would head towards another lockdown. Our Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister are also worried about the situation. Whether lockdown will be implemented again is in the hands of people.

NDTV asked the BMC official if the financial capital could go into another lockdown, in order to control the cases.

We don’t want to put our citizens in a situation that they were in during the nationwide lockdown. Crores of people had to suffer in various ways but if set rules and guidelines aren’t being followed then we might have to look at the option of imposing lockdown again. We have already imposed local area restrictions In certain areas of Mumbai. However, if the daily cases cross the 1000-mark, then we might have to go with the extreme measure of imposing a lockdown.

Also Read: Coronavirus Explained: What Is The Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine Being Used In India And How Safe Is It?

The Maharashtra government may impose a stricter lockdown in Yavatmal, Amravati and Akola cities of the state’s Vidarbha region “at any moment” in view of the COVID-19 situation there, as per the BMC official.

Dr Subhash Salunke says that the state does not need a full sledged lockdown since the virus outbreaks are happening in a patchy or clustered way.

Local containment measures and restrictions are needed to be observed and these measures have to be of serious nature. We need to stop the transmission completely. Even in the cities that are struggling with the crisis, we do not need a lockdown, we just need strictness and following of the protocols. Provided, in the next week cases do not rise. At this juncture, I do not recommend a total lockdown but localised containment measures are definitely essential. In case e don’t get positive results, then lockdown is the last resort.

Dr Salunke says that as per the government data from early February, around 14-15 districts were conducting fewer than 500 tests in a day. A significant decline was observed in districts such as Parbhani, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg, where somedays 200 samples were tested in the district. On Wednesday (February 17), over 58,000 tests were carried out in the state, up from 37,000-50,000 in the previous few weeks.

He said that the government is lacking majorly in not only testing but also contact tracing.

Dr Salunke, who is gearing up for his booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine in the next 3 days, says that he didn’t experience any kind of side effects from the vaccine. When it comes to the vaccine roll-out in the state, he says that vaccine should be available to all the citizens who want to take a shot. He says that this will help in controlling the spike and save numerous lives.

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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