On 15 June, Delhi recorded 1,118 new COVID cases, taking the national capital's 7 day average up to 729, and positivity rate up to 7.01 percent.
This is the highest number of COVID cases recorded in a day in Delhi in the last 1 month. Delhi had previously seen a sudden surge in cases between April and May, when the Omicron variant was first detected.
Since then, COVID restrictions like masking mandates and social distancing norms have been eased in many parts of the capital.
However, with another upward trend, the question that once again surfaces is are we going to see another COVID wave?
What does the current graph of COVID cases in the country say about the future of the pandemic? Are we in for a fourth wave? Should you be concerned?
FIT breaks it down.
What the Data Says: Infections Are on the Rise
The current rise in COVID cases in Delhi is comparable to that in Mumbai and Pune in the last couple of weeks, a trend that we have far from seen the last of.
Mumbai, on 15 June, recorded 2293 COVID cases, making up nearly half the daily case count of Maharashtra (4,024).
This also is a microcosmic reflection of the overall spike in COVID infections in the country.
India, too, has been seeing a steady rise in cases since 6 June, recording a weekly average of, 7891 new cases. On 14 June, India recorded, 8822 new COVID cases – the highest daily count since March.
The overall rise in cases – albeit in ripples - coincides with the emergence of Omicron and its subvariants, which were first detected in April.
The Situation in the Hospitals
Speaking to FIT, doctors stationed in various hospitals across Delhi say infections have gone up, yes, but hospitalisations remain low.
"We have had more patients getting tested positive for COVID, but most of them are asymptomatic, or have mild infection," says Dr Ruchi Ranawat, Deputy Medical Superintendent, Fortis Hospital Vasant Kunj.
In her hospital, Dr Ranawat says, they have three COVID patients currently in the ICU – all elderly, and immunocompromised to begin with.
Dr Sumit Ray, Head of Department, Critical Care Medicine & Medical Director at Holy Family Hospital, Okhla, talks of a similar situation in his hospital.
He says they have had a 'slight increase in numbers'.
"(we have) 3 positive and 2 suspected in the ICU, 2 on ventilator. All of them either partially vaccinated or on immunosuppressive therapy.Dr Sumit Ray, Head of Department, Critical Care Medicine & Medical Director at Holy Family Hospital, Okhla
Speaking to FIT for another article last week, experts reiterated that we need to be keeping a closer eye on the rate of increase in illness and hospitalisations, rather than infections, which, they say, are bound to continue to spike and dip in the foreseeable future.
"Severe illnesses remain relatively infrequent because, while the new virus variants are capable of establishing infection in and transmission from previously vaccinated/exposed people, they cause mild illness by and large in such people," says Dr Satyajit Rath, Immunologist, National Institute of Immunology.
This also means that the vaccines are still working, and doing their job of protecting against severe illness relatively well.
"It is impossible to stop the infection of a virus that is as infectious as SARS COV2," says Dr Vineeta Bal, Immunologist, and researcher at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER Pune).
"But once it gets in, whatever immunity we have as T cells, B cells, antibodies, all of it comes together so that further spread – which is responsible for illness – is decreased."Dr Vineeta Bal, Immunologist, and researcher at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER Pune).
What Can Change the Course of the Pandemic?
Speaking to FIT last week, Dr Satyajit Rath, Immunologist, National Institute of Immunology said, "this will remain the case only so long as no newer virus variants emerge that by chance end up causing severe illness as well."
"I think that outbreaks are bound to keep occuring, and whether they coalesce into large-scale increases in case numbers and whether they lead to major increases in the numbers of seriously ill cases are issues that remain up to chance, and up to the possibility of yet newer variants emerging."Dr Satyajit Rath, Immunologist, National Institute of Immunology
But, at the same time, the large number of infections shouldn't be disregarded completely, because not everyone is out of the woods.
"When numbers go up, chances of severe illness in people who are already at risk, like immunocompromised people and the elderly, will also go up,"Dr Sanjith Saseedharan, Consultant & Head Critical Care, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim, tells FIT.
Experts also point out that not everyone is fully vaccinated, and this includes a large population of children.
So while it might not be time yet to ring the alarm bells, experts and health authorities alike continue to recommend exercising caution and keeping up COVID-appropriate behaviour like masking, hand hygiene, and social distancing.