Compared to the rest of the world, India had recorded a lesser number of Covid -19 cases in the last few months; however, the Covid-19 pandemic appears to be taking a U-turn as a surge in the cases are being reported from all over the country.
Experts are now contemplating that we may be on the verge of a second wave of the pandemic with an increase in the daily cases to 15,000 in the last 24 hours.
The rise in cases is attributed to the increase in temperatures and humidity as most parts of northern India break into spring and summer months.
While the states of Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, MP, and Punjab are the worst affected, other parts of the country are also seeing an increase in the number of cases reported.
Experts have pointed out that the evolving pandemic may give way to the second wave of infections considering several factors.
The world has seen different variants of the virus, and the recent reports confirm that a crore of lab-confirmed cases is also in circulation in India.
The confirmation of the above cases clearly points out that there are many viruses in circulation, and the larger the circulation of these viruses, the higher the chances of new variants of the virus emerging.
What are these new variants, and where have they been found?
Although there are thousands of Covid -19 variants circulating, experts are concerned and focused on a few that have shown a higher rate of spread of cases.
These variants are
- KENT or the UK Variant – this variant of the Covid -19 virus has spread to over 50 countries, including India
- South African variant – this variant of the Covid -19 virus has spread to nearly 40 countries, including India
- Brazil Variant – this variant of the virus has spread to 15 countries, including India
- The UK variant has shown mutations from the South African variant and is spreading quickly in the US and may become the predominant strain in the US by late March, potentially increasing the number of already high cases in the US.
This strain of the virus is worrying because it has a doubling rate of every 9.8 days, while in the state of Florida (which is mostly dry), it has a doubling rate of 9.1 days.
According to researchers, the strain is more deadly than the other variants as it is 70% more transmissible, and it has also been linked to surges in other countries such as Portugal, Denmark, Netherland, Australia, Spain, Italy, Sweden, France, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon, Singapore, and Ireland.
Hence, the health experts have sounded an alarm in the US to increase its vaccination drive.
Some researchers have also suggested that the UK variant may be associated with a 30% higher risk of death.
What about India?
The UK variant has found its way to the Indian shores as well; as of the latest figures, more than 58 cases of the variant have been found in the country.
- South African variant – this variant of the virus is also highly contagious; as earlier sounded, the risk is highest for the elderly or those who have significant underlying health conditions. There are also concerns that the vaccines may not work quite as well against this variant.
The concern regarding this variant is the fact that some of the changes involve the virus’s spike protein – the part that gains the virus entry into human cells – it is also the bit that vaccines are designed around, which is why experts are concerned about this particular mutation.
The worrying aspect of this virus are as follows –
- Like the UK variant, it is more transmissible
- It affects the younger population with no history of comorbidities, more
- It is less susceptible to antibody neutralization, which means that antibody treatments may not be as effective against it.
What does it mean for India?
So far, only a handful of cases of this variant has been found in the country; 5 cases have been reported. However, as more people resort to international travel, the cases of the same may also see a potential rise in the country.
The vaccines currently will have to be tweaked to counter this variant.
- Brazilian variant – this variant of the virus is also raising concerns as it is highly transmissible, as is the case with the other two variants mentioned above.
This strain is highly prevalent in the Brazilian state of Amazonas and has been detected in countries including South Korea and the US.
The variant was first detected in a group of Brazilian travellers in Japan.
What does it mean for India?
So far, one case of this variant has been detected in the country, which has emerged independently.
Even though the cases of these variants at the moment are low in the country, experts have pointed out that currently, they are as many as 7000 coronavirus mutations in the country. Also, another concern that has emerged in the country is the fact that the N440K Covid variant is spreading a lot more in the Indian Southern states.
Why do we need to be cautious?
In its admission, the Union Health Ministry has said that over 75% of the Indian population remains vulnerable to the infection, and with the latest spike in the number of cases, it proves the same.
To reiterate, the number of new variants emerging leads to a higher risk of catching the virus. Moreover, once a person has been infected, immunity after the exposure is of doubtful strength and duration, which in simple terms means the risk of contracting the virus or its variants is much higher for such individuals.
World over countries are either already in the third wave or the second wave of the virus, including the variants; in India, we may be witnessing the first stage of the breakout of the muted virus.
Hence if adequate precaution is taken, the breakout can be limited to only a few cases.
What are the factors increasing the virus’s comeback?
One of the apparent factors related to the surge in the cases is the return to normalcy in daily life.
While it may not be possible for the country to reenter lockdown, if the cases surge in parts of the country, this may be the only alternative.
Opening of trains packed to capacity, people not following Covid -19 protocols, large-scale gatherings and weddings without masks, and social distancing can all lead to a second wave of the virus in the country.
What are the Scientists Doing about these new variants?
Researchers are urgently and actively testing the new variants of coronavirus; they are also working on updating coronavirus vaccines.
However, while the researchers and the scientists work on developing or updating the efficacy of the vaccines, the bottom line is that each individual will have to take precautions and adhere to Covid -19 adequate behaviour. If we are lax in our approach, then we compromise our health and the health of those around us; hence, as they say, prevention is better than cure!