Experts divided on intensity of third Covid-19 wave

Intensity of third Covid-19 wave in India has experts divided: Report

Noted virologist Shahid Jameel is sceptical about there being a big third wave

Credit: AFP Photo

As the government gears up for a possible third Covid-19 wave that is predicted to hit the country any time between September and October, experts stand divided on the intensity of the wave. 

While an expert panel, set up by the National Institute of Disaster Management under the Ministry of Home Affairs, said that during the third wave children will be at similar risk as adults since paediatric facilities, doctors and equipment like ventilators and ambulances are nowhere close to what may be required in case a large number of them become infected, two of India's foremost experts strongly differed in their assessments.

The panel, in its assessment submitted to the Prime Minister's Office, noted that the percentage of fully vaccinated people in the country is very low. It suggested the pace of vaccination be ramped up, failing which India could witness up to six lakh cases per day in the next wave.

Also Read — India risks 6 lakh daily Covid-19 cases without more vaccinations: Study

Noted virologist Shahid Jameel, however, is sceptical about there being a big third wave. "I am sceptical about there being a big third wave simply because the sero-surveillance shows about two-thirds of the people in India are already exposed to the virus. There will be localised outbreaks in places with lower exposure as we are seeing in Kerala,” he is quoted as saying in a report by The New Indian Express. 

Jameel believes that the timing and magnitude of the third wave will depend upon how well we continue to follow Covid-19 protocols, how fast the government is able to vaccinate the population at risk and whether the virus will mutate into a variant that effectively escapes pre-existing immunity.

He cautioned against various gatherings during Dussehra-Diwali, which could facilitate the virus to spread further if Covid-19-appropriate behaviour is not being followed. 

Another expert, K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India and member of the national Covid-19 task force, too said that the severity of the third wave in India is subject to many variable factors. "They are related to the number of susceptible persons in different parts of the country, how many of those persons will expose themselves to the virus by not following Covid-19-appropriate behaviour, how many super-spreader gatherings the authorities fail to prevent, how many of those who are infected become symptomatic and are properly tested and isolated, how contacts too quarantine themselves and whether new variants will enter the country from outside or will emerge from within the country," he told the publication.

Reddy pointed out that the number of susceptible persons will vary across the country, depending on how many persons have been already infected or vaccinated.

"With travel having resumed, even these numbers will change as people enter or exit a location. In such a complex adaptive system, linear models will not work well. Instead of speculative debates, we should focus our collective will and energy on controlling each of the factors that can lead to a third wave. If we do so, the third wave will be a ripple rather than a tidal wave, whenever it comes," he added.

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