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India's R-value higher than 2nd Covid-19 wave peak: Govt

Reproduction number denotes an epidemic's ability to spread
Last Updated : 05 January 2022, 17:22 IST

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India's Omicron-powered third wave is likely to infect much more than the Delta-driven second wave as the R value (reproduction number) currently stands at an all time high of 2.69, giving a clear indication of a very steep rise in the number of cases over the next few weeks.

“India's R is 2.69 at the moment, which is higher than the 1.69 that we saw at the peak of the second wave. The acceleration of cases is steeper than ever,” VK Paul, NITI Ayog member and the government's principal advisor on Covid-19 said on Wednesday.

Reproduction number denotes an epidemic's ability to spread. The current R value suggests that 100 Omicron infected persons can spread the virus to 269 others. For an epidemic to shrink, the R value has to drop below one.

Meanwhile, India recorded its first Omicron death with the Union Health Ministry confirming that a 70-year-old diabetic person in Jaipur became the first victim of the new variant.

More than 80 per cent Covid-19 cases in Delhi and nearly 40-80 per cent of cases in Mumbai and Pune are caused by the Omicron variant, top government sources told DH, sharing the scientific estimates prepared by the INSACOG – a consortium of laboratories carrying out genetic sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 variants.

While the prevalence of Omicron is still on the lower side in the east and southern India (around 10 per cent in Hyderabad) where Delta continues to dominate, it remains very high in the north and east. The estimate is likely to change every week once sampling from other states improves.

“We are facing an exponential rise in the number of Covid-19 cases largely driven by Omicron and particularly so in the western parts of India and in large cities. The test positivity rate was 1.1 per cent on December 30 and stands at 5 per cent on Wednesday,” said Paul.

Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Gujarat are the states showing an early indication of a surge, according to the Union Health Ministry. Some of the zones of concern are Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Thane, Pune, North 24 Parganas and Bengaluru Urban.

According to the Union Health Ministry, 239 districts have a test positivity rate above 2.5 per cent, whereas 83 districts have a positivity rate between 5-10 per cent.

The hospitalisation rate, Paul said, was still on the lower side with 3.7 per cent Covid-positive people requiring hospital care in Delhi and 5 per cent in Mumbai as against 20 per cent hospitalisation rate during the second wave.

As a consequence, the preparation done to tackle 5-6 lakh of Delta-type infections would be able to cater to more people if the hospitalisation rate remains low. “But it would be wrong to take the current wave lightly. There is always a chance of the (healthcare) system and the household getting overwhelmed,” he said.

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Published 05 January 2022, 15:42 IST

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