COVID-19 surge not harbinger of ‘new wave’, experts say

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New Delhi: The current rise in COVID-19 cases is not a harbinger of a “new wave” but an “expected fluctuation” during the endemic prevalence, experts have said, pointing out that the lack of mask-wearing and low consumption of reminders could be the reasons for the surge.

They also said that the recent outbreak is due to increased travel, social gatherings and economic activities, which leads to a greater possibility of transmission of the virus.

Seventeen districts in India, including seven in Kerala and five in Mizoram, report a weekly COVID-19 positivity rate of more than 10%. In 24 districts, including seven in Kerala and four in Maharashtra and Mizoram, weekly positivity is between 5 and 10 percent, an official source said.

Renowned virologist T Jacob John said the current rise in cases is not like a surge but a gradual increase that is not stable or evenly distributed.

Some states are leading, others are not involved. In these states, the phenomenon is mainly a big city image, not widespread. This pattern is not the harbinger of a new wave but of the fluctuations expected during the endemic prevalence,” he said.

“A wave has to have more numbers than the day before consistently – that’s not the case for us now, he told PTI. He said not carrying and not taking reminders can be the two main reasons for the wave.

Who gave the order not to wear a mask anymore. Who advised people to continue wearing masks in places where people congregate indoors? This behavior alone is enough to explain the gradual rise of cities,” John said.

The second barrier, he said, is people not taking booster doses.

“The higher the booster dose coverage, the lower the number of infections will be; the lower the number of infections, the lower the number of cases,” he said.

John, former director of the ICMR’s Center for Advanced Research in Virology, said less than 5% of those who received a second dose took their boosters.

Who is responsible for this low coverage? I understand that people don’t trust the government when it comes to vaccine safety – and the government isn’t bothered either. ”When the threat of an epidemic no longer induces people to opt for a full vaccination schedule, people will not accept the risk of serious adverse reactions, he said. He refuted claims that new variants were responsible for the outbreak.

Currently, the popular sentiment is that BA.5 and BA.4 are driving the increase. On the other hand, when viruses are encouraged to spread, the fastest-spreading ones will appear, he said.

Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, Medical Epidemiologist and Infectious Disease Specialist, said India’s situation is hybrid immunity through natural infection (three nationwide waves) and acquired immunity as almost 88% of the adult population received two injections of COVID-19 vaccines.

Next, Omicron is the predominant variant and although two new sublines of Omicron, BA.4 and BA.5 have been reported to be slightly more transmissible, these sublines are barely present in India and not enough to supply a large peak.

“There is no evidence of the emergence of a concerning new variant. Putting it all together, it is fair to conclude that the current localized surge is not the start of a new national wave,” said he declared.

To put the push into context, he said there were two things to remember. First, neither prior SARS CoV2 infection nor COVID-19 vaccination (at least not those used in India) are known to prevent subsequent infection.

“Second, now SARS CoV2 is present in all settings and is likely to stick around for a long time. At the same time, COVID-19 being an infectious disease, the rise and fall of cases is going to be a routine process. What we see in select of Indian cities and states in terms of spike in COVID-19 cases is in line with predictions, he told PTI.

An increase may be seen in other cities and states in the coming months, but with each increase “we should not jump to the conclusion that this is a new wave,” he said. .

Giridhar R. Babu, who also leads life course epidemiology at the Indian Institute of Public Health, Bengaluru, said there was a need to stop numbering the waves, especially when the UK experienced three waves in six months.

Waves result from a myriad of factors, including testing levels, case definition, and more. Instead, every outbreak must be quickly identified and controlled.

“Given a slight increase in new deaths attributed to COVID-19 observed in a few countries (in the European Union, United States, Portugal, Taiwan, New Zealand and England.), It is important to Continuously track epidemiological assessment data and correlate it with genomic sequencing, he says.

He said the plausible reason for the surge in cases is mainly due to new sublines, as seen in the rest of the world.

After a prolonged period of Delta dominance and subsequent omicron variant BA.2 is overtaken by a combination of several sublineages (BA.4, BA.5, BA.2.12.1, etc.), it is highly unlikely that it is not the same reason in India,” he said.

The proportion of people covered by booster doses, especially among the vulnerable, and adequate ventilation to relieve crowds in congested spaces are key determinants of overall wave control, he stressed.

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