India’s Covid-19 wave reverses forecast

In mid-August, Indian officials warned that a third Covid-19 wave was “inevitable”, but on November 23, the number of infections in the country was the lowest in 18 months.

The report predicting a third wave of pandemic that is about to hit the country was submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office 3 months ago, citing comments from experts and influential organizations, including the Institute of Management. National Disaster Management Authority (NIDM) of the Ministry of Home Affairs of India.

One of the comments contained in the report came from K VijayRaghavan, a key scientific adviser to the Indian government. At a press conference in May, the expert said a third wave of Covid-19 was “inevitable”, adding that children would be at higher risk.

The report also highlights potential pandemic scenarios. Research by the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur predicts that the country could record more than 300,000 new infections a day by October if no restrictions are in place. In the case of strict anti-epidemic, the third wave is predicted to peak in late October at more than 200,000 cases a day.

However, none of the scenarios in the report materialize, even as India has just passed the festive season and is facing severe air pollution and falling temperatures, conditions that are believed to be the main reasons why. let the virus spread.

People wearing masks go to buy things at a market before the Diwali light festival in Mumbai, India, on October 28.  Photo: Reuters.

People wearing masks go to buy things at a market before the Diwali light festival in Mumbai, India, on October 28. Photo: Reuters.

On November 23, India recorded 7,579 new nCoV infections, the lowest number in 18 months. The number of new infections has stayed below 20,000 for 46 consecutive days and below 50,000 for 149 consecutive days, while the number has risen to more than 400,000 during the second pandemic wave.

“Even after the Diwali light festival, we still didn’t see any outbreaks. I think we are much safer,” said Dr. MD Gupte, former director of India’s National Institute of Epidemiology. determined.

Facing this situation, experts are now talking about the possibility that Covid-19 is not completely eliminated but enters the endemic stage in India, that is, the virus continues to be present and spread but does not cause any consequences. serious results.

T Sundararaman, former executive director of India’s National Health System Resource Center, explains that to reach this state, the baseline infection coefficient (R0) needs to be kept below 1, i.e. average. one case infects less than one person. Recent studies have shown that the R0 coefficient of Delta, the variant that caused the second pandemic wave in India, is 5-8, which is about the same level of transmission as chickenpox.

“A R0 coefficient below 1 is a low level of infection that can persist indefinitely like the way we still get the flu or typhoid. When an epidemic becomes endemic, there is no end point,” Sundararaman described. possible scenario with Covid-19.

In February, the results of a survey in the journal Nature showed that nearly 90% of scientists “felt that the nCoV has a very high probability, or is likely, to become an endemic disease”. A few months later, scientists in India also made a similar prediction.

“The severity of the second wave of Covid-19 brought us to the point where epidemiologists call herd immunity, when the epidemic turns into an endemic phase with a low and stable number of infections.” , Dr. T Jacob John, famous Indian virologist, reviews. He believes that India is the first country to reach this state.

Still, some experts are skeptical. “I am cautious when it comes to the possibility of India entering an endemic stage, because everything can change when a bad strain appears anywhere,” said virologist Shahid Jameel at the University of Green. Templeton of England made the point.

Earlier this month, fears of a new outbreak arose when the southern state of Karnataka reported seven cases of the AY.4.2 variant, an offshoot of Delta. About 40 cases of this variant have been reported in at least six states. However, the Indian Society of SARS-CoV-2 Genes (INSACOG) said that the prevalence of AY.4.2 infection was too low, accounting for less than 0.1% of all strains of concern or concern in the country. this.

Meanwhile, AY.4.2 is raging across Europe, leading to a spike in infections and hospitalizations, prompting authorities to re-impose restrictions. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) says AY.4.2 has accounted for almost 13% of all Delta infections.

“The current cases in the West are not immune to Covid-19, mostly because they have not been vaccinated. This means that the level of herd immunity from previous outbreaks is still low, like food their debt to the Delta variant,” Dr. Jacob John infers.

People are vaccinated against Covid-19 in West Bengal state, India, on October 21.  Photo: AP.

People are vaccinated against Covid-19 in West Bengal state, India, on October 21. Photo: AP.

Meanwhile, Indian government surveys show that nearly 70% of the country’s population has been infected with nCoV as of July, following the catastrophic outbreak in April and May. The wide spread of Delta strain in India, along with the increasingly rapid Covid-19 vaccination campaign, have helped raise the level of immunity in the community to a very high level.

Last month, Mumbai, one of the cities hardest hit by the virus in India, recorded no new Covid-19 deaths for the first time since the pandemic broke out. The capital New Delhi has also seen many days without a single death in the past few months.

“We found that 90% of vaccinated people and 79% of unvaccinated people had antibodies,” said Dr Daksha Shah, deputy medical director of the Brihanmumbai Urban Company (BMC) in Mumbai. added that a total of 86% of residents in the city had antibodies against Covid-19 as of September.

“The whole economy has opened up, from trains to buses and theatres. Most of the restrictions have been eased. However, the number of new infections has not increased, of course thanks in part to the effectiveness of the vaccine,” Shah said. let me know.

The Indian government on October 21 celebrated the milestone of one billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, with a speech to the nation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This month, they also praised the achievement of immunizing nearly 81% of the adult population with at least one dose of the vaccine.

Despite concerns about millions not getting their second shot on time and only 40% of the population being fully vaccinated, many experts are optimistic.

“The number of infections is decreasing, the beds are empty again. After the Durga Puja festival in October, the number of infections did increase, but not as intense as the second wave. This state of immunity can be achieved through the campaign. vaccination, after thousands of lives have been lost,” said Dr. Arjun Dasgupta, president of the West Bengal Doctors Forum.

Luster (Follow Al Jazeera)

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