Months after the devastating second wave, India seems to have restored into a semblance of pre-pandemic times for the first time this year.
Public spaces are opening up, kids are going back to schools and colleges, families are going on holidays.
But its not without a distant fear of a possible third wave looming at the horizon.
In the past couple of months, each new day has been reporting a new low as far as new daily cases are concerned and vaccination coverage has been moving in the opposite direction. But is it all a lull before a storm?
Let's look at what the data from different states says.
A Look at the Data
As of today (31 August) India has a total of 3,70,640 active cases according to data collected by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), with 5684 cases down in the last 24 hours.
As far as the death toll is concerned, India has recorded 350 COVID-related deaths in the last 24 hours (31August) which has been the lowest in 154 days according to MoneyControl.
What kind of trends does the COVID-19 caseload of the most affected states tell us? Is India moving into a third wave?
New COVID-19 cases reported in the 5 worst hit states.
Look at the daily case count (as of 8 AM, 31 August) and you will find the usual suspects leading the charts—Kerala, followed by Maharshtra.
But what what does a closer look at the trends in the last couple of weeks say?
Daily COVID-19 cases in India between Monday, 23 August and Tuesday, 31 August. Source: Press Information Bureau
Although the daily count of new COVID cases in the country has seen an upward trend, the number has dropped in the last 24 hours.
Only further data from the rest of the week can tell if the drop is an aberration or a welcome trend.
Kerala, the state that has consistently on top of the charts in terms of COVID cases started seeing yet another upward surge in cases after a temporary respite when the daily covid count in the state seemed to ebb. Once again, the state saw a slight decline in new daily casesafter 2 weeks of upward trends.
Moreover, with festival season just around the corner, experts are concerned of these numbers soaring further in the coming weeks.
Earlier this month, the MoHFW had declared in a report that the country is likely to see the peak of third wave in October.
According to the report, indicators of this are the slowdown in the in the rate of decline of new cases and a slight increase in the positivity rate.
Both of which we have been seeing in the past couple of weeks, but as the fluctuations suggest, it might be too soon to declare the third wave just yet, even though it does seem like were headed that way.
What Experts Are Saying
If a third wave is approaching, how do the experts feel about it?
Something that most experts agree upon is that the third wave will be nothing like the second.
Speaking to FIT for a previous article, Virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang explained how the SEO prevalence from natural infection int eh second wave along with the vaccines has put us in a comfortable position to get through the third wave without much damage.
In the same vein, Epidemiologist Dr JP Muliyil says, "There may be a few areas like the northeast where the percentage of is low, or Tamil Nadu, where some of the districts have low seropositivity (may have a spike in cases).
"But, he adds, places that were largely affected in the second wave and have gained high seropositivity are likely to not see many cases.
"From whatever I can see, the majority of Indians acquired immunity through natural infection, which seems to be much more robust than vaccines, he says.
"We don't need a disaster management type of control. We need hospitals to support patients and oxygen supply ready incase it becomes necessary."
Dr Muliyil also reiterates that the third wave is not going to hit kids harder.
Nonetheless, experts advice sticking to the side of caution, as being unvaccinated leaves children more vulnerable than adults.
"There is a cause for worry if not panic according to public health experts, since the children below 18 years remain unvaccinated in India," reads the report by the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) released last week.
Increasing vaccine coverage, especially among children, they agree, is pertinent to keeping the third wave in check.