“It’s safer now”: Has India passed the worst of the COVID pandemic? | Coronavirus pandemic news

New Delhi, India – On Tuesday, India reported 7,579 coronavirus cases, which is the lowest increase in 543 days, despite the large holiday gatherings held in recent weeks.

“even though [Hindu festival of] For Diwali, we did not see a surge,” the former director of the National Institute of Epidemiology, MD Gupte, was quoted in media reports. This is mainly due to the fact that the vast majority of Indians have antibodies through natural infections.

“I think we are safer now,” Gupt said.

According to government surveys, after the number of infections and deaths hit a record high in July, nearly 70% of Indians were naturally infected. Cruel second wave In April and May.

The Ministry of Health said in a statement last week that active cases accounted for less than 1% of the total, the lowest level since March 2020.

Even though India has just passed the holiday season, it is currently plagued by severe air pollution and falling temperatures-thought to be the best conditions for a surge in coronavirus infections-the country seems to have escaped another deadly wave.

In the past 21 weeks, India has recorded less than 50,000 cases every day. Since the second week of October, it has remained below 20,000-compared with the deadly second wave in April and May this year, peaking at more than 400,000 cases per day.

Government and health experts Fear of the third wave Virus, media reports in August and September warned that the wave will peak in October or November.

One of the reports quoted the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) under the Ministry of Interior of India as saying that there will be a third wave of epidemics in October. The report, published in mid-August and submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office, cited government experts and agencies’ warnings about the coming wave.

Among the people cited in the report is K Vijay Raghavan, the government’s chief scientific adviser, who stated at a press conference in May 2021 that the third wave of COVID-19 is “inevitable” and children will face greater risks.

The report highlights the possible situation predicted by the Indian Institute of Technology (Kanpur, one of India’s leading state-owned institutions). Research by the Institute predicts that if there are no restrictions, there will be more than 300,000 coronavirus cases per day in October, which is lower than the second. Wave peak. place.

Through strict intervention, it is expected that it will reach a peak of more than 200,000 people per day in late October.

However, with no such surge in sight, experts are now talking about scenarios in which the disease may enter the “epidemic phase” in India.

“We need to understand that this disease is far from eliminated. It exists and continues to spread. T Sundararaman, the global coordinator of the People’s Health Movement and former executive director of the National Health System Resource Center, said that it only works when it has not reached the level of a pandemic. It is an endemic epidemic.

Sundararaman explained that to do this, the R0 value of COVID-19 should be kept below 1. In epidemiology, R0 or R-naught is the average number of people who can transmit the disease by a single infected person. In short, it indicates the contagiousness of an infectious disease.

Some recent studies have used this number for the Delta variant, the coronavirus that caused the second wave of epidemics in India, between 5 and 8-which means it is as contagious as chickenpox.

“This will be a low-level transmission that may continue indefinitely, just like the way we contract influenza or typhoid fever. In an endemic epidemic, there is no end,” Sundararaman said, describing endemic COVID- 19 What the situation might look like.

In February of this year, a survey conducted by the journal Nature found that the vast majority (nearly 90%) of scientists “believe that SARS-CoV-2 is very likely or very likely to become an endemic virus.” A few months later, scientists in India had at least the same expectations.

“The degree of the second wave of Himalayan has brought us to what epidemiologists call the’herd immunity threshold’. At this point, the epidemic must succumb to the’endemic’ stage with a low and stable number,” the famous virologist And retired professor Dr. T Jacob John claimed that India was the first country to enter the epidemic, told Al Jazeera.

Although some people believe in the COVID-19 pandemic, others remain cautious.

Shahid Jameel, a well-known virologist and researcher at Green Templeton College, Oxford University, told Al Jazeera: “I am cautious about saying that India has reached an endemic epidemic, because a bad variant that appears anywhere can change this. balance.”

Fear of the variant

Earlier this month, as seven cases of new coronary pneumonia were reported in the southern state of Karnataka, there were rumors that they were worried about another lockdown. Delta The variant, AY.4.2, is Delta variant.

According to news reports, at least six states have reported about 40 cases of AY.4.2.

Later, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) stated that the frequency of AY.4.2 in India was too low (less than 0.1% of all variants of interest and interest).

It is said that the delta descent is driving the third wave in Britain. The sub-series AY.4.2, which is estimated to have a transmission rate of 10-15% higher than Delta, is raging in Europe, triggering restrictions as the case rate and number of hospitalizations increase.

According to data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the prevalence of this variant in the UK has increased to nearly 13% of Delta cases. Delta Plus was first discovered in July and was declared a “variant under investigation” by UKHSA last month.

“Clinical cases in Western countries are now non-immune (most of them are not vaccinated). This means that the population immunity (or herd immunity) caused by past infections is still very low, just like they owed the Delta variant debt,” Ya Cobb John said.

Data from UKHSA shows that the continued surge is driven by the unvaccinated young population. Jameel blamed the country’s “poor compliance” and “openness”, where infections are caused by school-age children and adolescents.

“But severe illness and mortality are very low (0.2% compared to the previous 2%). This is due to the high rate of adult vaccination and natural mild infections in young people,” said Jameel.

The vaccine comes to the rescue

According to virologist John, Delta’s operations in India are relatively free. As the two doses of vaccination slowly climbed, it increased a very high herd immunity due to the second huge wave.

Last month, Mumbai, one of India’s worst-hit cities, reported no deaths for the first time since the pandemic began. In the past few months, there have been several zero death days in New Delhi. The two cities most affected by the second wave have found high seroprevalence rates (signs of infection) in their populations.

“We found that 90% of vaccinated people had antibodies, and among those who were not vaccinated, we found that about 79% of them had antibodies,” said Daksha Shah, deputy executive health officer of Brillham Mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). Said the doctor.

Shah pointed to the last serum survey released by BMC in September, which found that 86% of Mumbai’s residents had antibodies against the coronavirus.

“The entire economy is open, from trains and buses to even theaters. Most restrictions have been relaxed. Even so, there has been no increase in cases. Of course, vaccination will also have an impact,” Shah said.

The sixth recent serosurvey report in New Delhi stated that more than 95% of samples from each area were seropositive due to vaccination or previous infections. Despite the removal of all restrictions, the capital has been reporting very few new cases and deaths.

In eastern India, Kolkata has seen a surge in cases every day after the Hindu Durga Fa meeting.

“The cases are declining, and official data shows that in hospitals, we can see vacant beds again. After Pujo, the number of cases has surged, but it has never been as surging as the second wave,” Dr. Arjun Dasgupta of Kolkata, chairman of the West Bengal Doctors Forum, told The Peninsula. TV station.

“The immunity gained in exchange for millions of deaths and the first dose of vaccination may have been successful.”

The Indian government celebrated an important milestone Manage one billion The COVID-19 vaccine was vaccinated on October 21, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the country to commemorate it. This month, the government praised itself for getting the first dose of vaccine for nearly 81% of the eligible adult population.

Despite the early celebration, it is estimated that only about 40% of the population has been fully vaccinated, and millions of people are skipping the second dose of vaccine. Government data show that more than 120 million people have not received the second dose of vaccine.

India has reported a total of 34.5 million COVID-19 cases, second only to the United States. In the past 24 hours, the death toll has increased by 236 to 466,147.

At the same time, India’s reliance on digital solutions for its large vaccination program has been criticized for its exclusivity and restriction.

On November 2, in order to increase the vaccination rate and vaccinate the second dose, the Indian government launched a month-long door-to-door campaign called “Har Ghar Dastak” (knock on the door).

“Vaccine hesitation is a serious problem. You can’t do this with OTP [one-time passwords] And applications.them [people] Need to be tracked from house to house. We have a group of people who create miracles. This is how we eradicate smallpox and polio,” Dasgupta said.

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