India is finally well past the peak of the second wave of the COVID 19 pandemic. However, rising cases of the Delta variant and subsequent virus mutations have now made the probability of the third wave of COVID 19, look like a serious worry for India. It would be childish for us to assume that we are In the clear. We are still reporting daily cases of over 40K. The Delta plus version is already spreading across states, posing a serious threat with each passing day. So the question remains- Is Indian going to have a third wave of COVID 19? What have we learned since the inception of the second wave? How can we avoid a third wave? And how will we know when a third wave strikes?
Is India going to have a third wave?
Just like scientists didn’t accurately predict if there would be a second wave, they still can’t tell for sure about a third one. Health officials are now routinely issuing warnings to the public about the likelihood of a third wave. The third wave was dubbed "inevitable" by Principal Scientific Advisor K Vijay Raghavan earlier this month, despite the fact that its timing could not be foreseen.
According to a report by Press Trust India(PTI), Tanvee Gupta-Jain, chief economist of UBS Securities India, said the third wave dangers are even more serious now that economic activity has risen for the seventh week in a row to July 12, with numerous states gradually removing movement restrictions.
20% of the districts which are accounting for most of the daily cases currently, and where the second wave has not completely died down are already seeing the beginning of the third wave.
The Indian Council of Medical Research said on Thursday, July 15th, that the third wave of COVID-19 is expected to arrive in India by the end of August. Dr. Samiran Panda, the ICMR's Head of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases, told NDTV that the third wave is anticipated to be less intense than the second.
What have we learned from the second wave?
India has seen a devastating second wave of COVID 19. When The economy started to reopen, an increase in cases was inevitable. However, what were the different factors for such a sharp rise in cases? The second wave was a culmination of four factors:
- Super spreader events
- New variants
- Slow vaccination drives
When the first wave of COVID-19 subsided in December 2020 there was a sense of complacency amongst the citizens and the government. Complacency refers to a feeling of smugness or uncritical satisfaction with one’s achievements. We as a country had started to believe that we are defeated the COVID-19 pandemic. The government felt victorious and so did the people. We reopen the economy completely. Or on a daily basis, we were seeing large gatherings of people we had crowded events, restaurants, and parties. However what really settings of super spreader events like the Kamala and public rallies held for assembly elections.
When this was mixed with newer and strong variants of Coronavirus such as Alpha and Delta and the slow vaccination drives it created the perfect storm. India became the hub for coronavirus to thrive. In order to avoid the third wave, we need to keep these things in mind. We must not become overly proud of our achievements with COVID cause we never know how the situation might see a complete turnaround.
How can we avoid a new wave?
The first thing India must do in order to avoid the third wave of COVID 19 is, adopts a vaccination strategy that is effective and better utilizes the existing supply of vaccines. The Indian vaccination policy aims at vaccinating a large proportion of the population and is not paying enough importance to ensure that people from all walks of life are vaccinated. The vaccination program's primary purpose should be to tame the virus and preserve lives.
It is critical that states gradually reopen their economies. We will only assist the virus spread quicker if we hurry into reopening and people do not follow COVID safety standards. We are already seeing people indulge in revenge travel and having no regard for COVID protocol. This might prove to be dangerous in the future.
New strains of the virus are also posing a threat to the stable COVID situation in India, currently. New variants like the Delta plus variant have been deemed a variant of concern. As of now, there is not enough data to say that this would lead to a third wave but early containment measures will be required in order for it to not become a problem.
The third wave's outcome is also determined by the level of immunity that India's population possesses, both through earlier illnesses and vaccines. Millions will remain vulnerable if the pace does not ramp up, even though immunity from previous COVID infections can protect people.
Due to the fact that we have overcome the peak of the second wave of COVID 19 people may tend to become overly complacent, however needs to be avoided at all costs. Experts concur that people should not dismiss COVID because India still has a sizable susceptible population and the prospect of more lethal versions looms.
How will we know if there is a third wave?
A wave during a pandemic is a period of surge followed by a relative period of lull. This basically means that the number of cases rises for a certain period of time after which there is a considerable drop in cases, which then remains constant.
The third wave, which is now being discussed, relates to a potential increase in national cases. The national curve presently appears to be in a downward trend. If there is a new surge after that, it will be considered as the third wave if it lasts for a few weeks or months.