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India needs to brace up for 2nd wave of COVID infections: Experts

After reaching the trough of just 28,609 fresh Covid-19 cases on November 16 — the lowest in four months — India has seen between 38,000 and 46,000 new cases daily in the last four days, raising concerns that the country is staring at a second wave of the deadly infection. The daily infection count reached its peak of 96,860 on September 16.
 
Ever since, there has been a steady decline. But, in recent days, states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, and Delhi have seen a sharp rise in daily new cases, pushing the national tally up.
“We are definitely seeing early signs of a second wave at the national level,” health economist Rijo M John said.
 
The mortality rate, too, is rising in several states, including Kerala, Odisha, Bihar, Assam, Jharkhand, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, John pointed out. Experts warned that the states that did well in containing the first wave may see a higher caseload this time around if they let the guard down.
 
“In those states, since seroprevalence and infection-induced immunity are low, people venturing out would mean high daily cases,” said public health expert Oommen C. Kurian. “India will have multiple peaks before vaccines arrive and a second wave by end-November or early-December is highly likely,” he added. 
 
Understandably, the spurt in cases has forced state governments to re-impose some of the curbs that were dialled back. Haryana and Manipur, for instance, have shut schools again while many districts in Rajasthan and Gujarat are witnessing more restrictions. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray warned the second wave “looks like a tsunami” and urged people not to lower their guards so as to avoid another lockdown.
 
Covid growth rate faster than national average in 19 states, UTs
An analysis of the Covid-19 data shared by the Centre shows that while the national growth rate of the disease is 0.45% as of now, there are 19 states and Union Territories where it is growing at a faster rate than the national average.
 
This rate is the fastest, at 2%, for Himachal Pradesh followed by 1.3% in Nagaland and 1.2% in Delhi and Haryana. Nineteen states, led by Himachal Pradesh, also have a seven-day moving test positivity rate of over 4%, which is the national average.
 
According to epidemiologist Amitabh Banerjee, both globally and in India, metros and cities with high population migration inwards have been hotspots of intense transmission, and the mortality many times higher than the national average.
 
“However, these epicentres seem to be relatively resistant to the so-called second wave,” he said. “Similar phenomenon is seen in India, on a smaller scale, as our younger and leaner population is cushioning the full impact of the pandemic. Delhi, however, could take some time to stabilise due to various factors.”
 
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to hold two back to back meetings, one with eight states with high caseloads and another with states and UTs to discuss vaccine distribution strategy, sources said.
 

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