- Mixing of crowds could potentially lead to third wave: Experts
- A large pool of virus is still present in the community: Dr Arvind Kumar
- Experts warn that ignoring Covid norms can have dire consequences
New Delhi: When Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand eased Covid restrictions, people started flocking to the hill stations and other tourist spots to get a relief from scorching heat in other parts of the country. Most of these people, however, are seen flouting all Covid norms like wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, according to many media reports. The government and experts have expressed concern over the complacency over Covid among people. In the light of the hill station crowds, the state governments of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh have imposed some restrictions on people gathering at tourist spots once again and a slight increase has also been observed in the number of cases over the past week. NDTV spoke to Dr Arvind Kumar, Chairman, Institute of Chest Surgery, Medanta Hospital and Dr Rachna Kucheria, Epidemiologist about how worrying are these hill station crowds and can it lead to the third wave of Covid in the country.
According to Dr Kumar, the virus is still raging and even though the increase in cases may have slowed a bit but the infection is still happening and so the risk is still there. The hill stations need better crowd control, he said and added,
Looking at visuals of overcrowding in the hill station, I am not just worried, I am in fact, shocked and amazed that just one and a half months after the horror which the whole country has witnessed, how the people can be so callous towards their own health and the health of the country at large? The virus has not gone. It is very much there. In that huge crowd at Kempty fall, even if one infected person is there, that person can infect at least 50-100 people in the course of the day and those people can start the chain reaction across the country. I would strongly say that this irresponsible behaviour needs to be stopped.
He further said that the district administration and state government must impose restrictions to check the irresponsible behaviour of the people.
Will Hill Station Crowds Lead To The Third Wave Of COVID-19?
Dr Kumar asserted that people crowding at hill stationS could potentially trigger the third wave of Covid in the country. He warned that a large pool of virus is still present in the community, most of which is the Delta variant. He said,
The people crowding on hill stations are going to go back to their cities, taking the virus with them and spread it across, just like what happened after the political rallies and Kumbh Mela which fueled the second wave.
Further adding to why this is a matter of concern, Dr Kucheria said that the North Eastern and Southern parts of the country are reporting an increase in the number of cases per day in the last few days and the risk is still reeling over the country. She said,
R number or the Reproduction number (any disease’s ability to spread) in the North East right now is over one. This means that if one person is infected, he or she can infect more than one person and that could exponentially go up. All it takes is just one person and if the rest of them are susceptible, it could go really fast.
She further said that the people and the government must be cautious as the Delta variant which is far more contagious is still present. She added,
It is hard to say that when the third wave will arrive, but if the defying of preventive measures persists, we should be on alert in the next couple of weeks.
She further raised concerns about the kind of testing going on at the tourist places. She said,
It is important to focus on testing of people at these places in order to see what the positivity rate is and if any super spreader event is happening. It is important to get a sense of what is happening in terms of transmission rate and once the R number crosses one at these places, then there will be a logarithmic rise. That is why we constantly need to do two things- mind people’s behaviour and continue to test in and around places where people are crowding.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also expressed concerns over the people gathering in markets and hill stations without wearing masks or observing social distancing norms. He urged people to guard themselves to prevent the third wave. He said,
It is not okay to have huge crowds in hill stations and markets without wearing masks. The virus does not come and go on its own… we bring it with us when we disobey the rules. Experts are warning us repeatedly that careless behaviour – like overcrowding – will lead to an increase in Covid cases. Steps should be taken to prevent crowds… We all need to work together to stop the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to make people understand that the third wave will not come on its own. The main question in our mind should be how to prevent the third wave and implement the COVID protocol strictly.
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 (Water, Sanitation 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 pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.