With the fifth consecutive day of rising Covid-19 cases in the country, fears of India on the brink of a second Covid-19 wave appear to be gaining ground. From reporting under 10,000 fresh cases last week, India’s daily fresh Covid-19 cases climbed back to over 14,000 on Saturday — with the bulk of new cases emanating from the five states of Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
While Kerala, which gained global fame in the initial days of the pandemic for effectively controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus, is now the second worst affected state, the worst affected, Maharashtra, is not just battling a laxity on adherence to Covid-19 protocols but also a multiplicity of strains of the novel coronavirus.
According to Dr Shashank Joshi, member of Maharashtra’s Covid Task Force, India has 240 new strains of SARS-Cov-2 in circulation, which is causing a resurgence in the number of positive cases, especially in Maharashtra. Adding to the concern, Dr Randeep Guleria, Director of the Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), said that these new strains could be highly contagious and more lethal.
The presence of hundreds of new strains also makes it difficult to attain herd immunity, Guleria added as at least 80% of India’s population will need to be infected with Covid-19. Moreover, there’s the possibility that the new strains could also cause re-infection among those who have recovered from Covid-19, negating the presence of antibodies they have developed.
Reinforcing the need “to go back to aggressive measures of testing, contact tracing and isolating infections”, Guleria, while speaking with NDTV said the virus variants have an “immune escape mechanism”, which allows them to circumvent either vaccination-imbued or disease-caused immunity. However, he added, getting vaccinated may still be the best shot in controlling Covid-19 — as even if their efficacy against new variants is less, the infection will be milder.