Dr Rakesh Mishra, the director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, has said the next three weeks are crucial for India and that it is very important for people to follow guidelines "very strictly" even as the country is witnessing spiralling cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) amid an acute shortage of hospital beds, oxygen and drugs. Dr Mishra said that if the dearth of hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and vaccines continues, the country will be in a disastrous state. "The next three weeks are very critical for India in terms of the spread of the infection. People should take utmost care and precautions," Dr Mishra told news agency ANI. "We have seen this kind of situation in Italy, where many people have lost their lives on the corridors of hospitals due to lack of treatment medicine and oxygen cylinders. Last year, healthcare workers were very effective in handling the situation," he said.
India has been reporting record single-day spikes of Covid-19 cases and on Sunday there were 261,500 infections and 1501 related deaths, pushing the tally to 14,788,109 to become second only to the United States. The positivity rate has doubled in the last 12 days to 16.69 per cent and 10 states -- Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan -- reported 78.56 per cent of the new infections, the health ministry said. Chhattisgarh reported the highest weekly positivity rate at 30.38 per cent, followed by Goa at 24.24 per cent, Maharashtra at 24.17 per cent, Rajasthan at 23.33 per cent and Madhya Pradesh at 18.99 per cent, according to the ministry. "The national weekly positivity rate has increased from 3.05 per cent to 13.54 per cent in the last one month," the health ministry said in a statement.
Mishra said that the second wave was very much expected as the country is witnessing an increasing number of Covid-19 positive case. "On many occasions over the past few months, many medical intellectuals, have been saying that the virus and its impact is just low and has not been completely wiped out. We should have been a bit more prepared for this kind of situation," he said, according to ANI. "In infections like Covid-19, it is quite common that there would be a second wave as the virus mutates and whichever of the mutated variant virus is stronger will spread faster. There have been a lot of new variants that have emerged. More people will be infected with the mutated variant in India, if they don't adhere to the Covid guidelines," he added.
Experts have said the new variant, which has a so-called double mutation, is thought to be fueling India's deadlier new wave of Covid-19 cases that has made it the world's second worst-hit country, surpassing Brazil again. The new variant, called B.1.617, was initially detected in India with two mutations -- the E484Q and L452R. It was first reported late last year by a scientist in India and more details were presented before the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday.
Covid-19 cases are rising every day because people have stopped taking care of themselves by not putting on masks, and thinking that it has gone completely, he said. "Though the vaccine is a very important tool to defeat the pandemic, people must still remember to follow the Covid guidelines as the virus can be spread from even those who have been vaccinated. No matter what variant comes, it cannot spread if we stick to the Covid guidelines," he added. "After a thorough air sampling of the coronavirus, it has been found that the virus can spread through air. It can move upto 20 feet in a closed area. Wearing a mask can keep one 80 to 90 per cent safe. If the other person is also wearing a mask, then one can be 99 per cent safe," he added.
Mishra said that it is extremely dangerous when there is a large gathering of people especially in places like Kumbh Mela and political gatherings as it is a perfect place from the virus to spread to many other people. "People will be infected without knowing and will go back to their home towns and further spread the virus to most of the villages, thus resulting in the spread to even more people," he said.
He also appealed to people to get vaccinated in large numbers and "further even after getting vaccinated, one must not forget to use masks."