- GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Second Wave of COVID-19
Context: Experts remain divided on the question of whether the slow yet steady rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country over the last week of February 2021 is indicative of the onset of a ‘second wave’.
But the Centre and some State governments are on the alert against the rising numbers and are reinforcing aggressive testing and proper social and hygiene protocols
What is happening around the globe?
- Second Wave in Europe: In Europe, after the first wave in May 2020, the second wave struck in Nov 2020. Experts said every country in Europe that had managed to get away lightly with the first wave was nearly crippled by the second one.
- Similar Distress in Second Wave: Even nations that had suffered badly initially, including Italy, were hit hard again. Hospitals started filling up, beds went scarce again, and the death rate started climbing.
- Government’s response w.r.t Second wave: Stricter lockdowns were introduced, with curfews and restrictions on gatherings in public places; schools were shut down again, as governments struggled to cope with this new wave.
- Mutated Strains: In late 2020, the emergence of newer, mutated strains of the virus in Britain and South Africa meant a faster-spreading variant had established dominance in some countries. However, scientists said there was no evidence to show that the new British strain caused a more severe disease.
Are Cases growing in India?
- After infections peaked in September last year, cases across the country had been steadily declining, with the exception of Kerala, an outlier State that continued to see high numbers after having seen initial success in flattening the curve.
- However, in the last week of February this year, the trend reversed, with some States beginning to report higher numbers.
- The average increase was around 14,000 new infections per day and two States, Maharashtra and Punjab, led the increase in the number of cases, even as their testing numbers had dipped over the past few months.
- The Union Health Ministry stated that nearly 86% of the over 16,400 cases recorded in the recent 24-hour time period were from six States and one Union Territory.
Source: The Hindu
What is causing the spike?
- Cluster-Spreader events: The spikes in Maharashtra were caused by a series of super-spreader events, or clusters. Experts opine that the rise in the number of cases was not due to a variant of the virus with a tendency to transmit faster, but because of select super-spreader events.
- Letting down of guards: In general, there seems to be an impression among people that the country is over the worst phase of the pandemic, and hence, many are letting their guard and masks down.
- Lack of Strict Regulations: During the previous surge, strict regulations imposed by States along with fines and penalties for violating protocols helped ensure compliance. But, with the decreasing number of cases, safety measures were overlooked, possibly leading to the clusters that have pushed the numbers up again.
- May be a blip: There are others who believe that a ‘second wave’ is not really a wave, but more of a blip. One reason for this, according to experts, could be the fact that 60% of India’s population had already been exposed to the virus and the country may have approached herd immunity.
What is the way ahead?
- There are only two ways of getting immunity from the virus, one is getting infected, and the other is via a vaccine
- It is important to fast track the vaccine programme across the country, but testing is equally important.
- The number of tests must go up again and contact tracing, ideally 20 persons for every case, should be taken up intently.
- Experts call for a renewed emphasis on following safety protocols, such as wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining physical distance to fend off a possible ‘second wave’ or a sustained hike in the numbers. Draconian total lockdowns are no longer necessary.
Connecting the dots: