Spike in COVID Cases in Maharashtra a Sign of Second Wave?

Maharashtra sees a spike in COVID cases, Mumbai, Pune Nagpur see a rise. What do the experts say?

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Health News
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COVID-19 in Maharashtra: Is it a case of more testing, or are bigger reasons at play.
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Over the weekend, Maharashtra saw a sharp spike in COVID cases with 4,092 new cases being reported since Sunday, 14 February. With 3,663 cases on Tuesday, the state’s total tally is 37,125 active cases.

Of these, 461 new positive cases were reported in Mumbai, according to the BMC. This is a slight dip in the number of cases since the city was witnessing over 500 cases in the past few days.

Thirty-six COVID related deaths were reported in Maharashtra on 16 February, bringing the total number up to 51,591, according to the Health Ministry.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Maharashtra has consistently been one of the worst-hit states. While it seemed like the state might get some respite from the number of cases, which started to recede around mid-January, the sudden spike last week indicated that the pandemic is far from over.

Number of New COVID Cases in Maharashtra From 6 to 14 February

16 February was the sixth day in a row when Maharashtra reported 3k+ new cases.

The steady rise in cases in Mumbai coincides with the unlocking of the state. Schools and colleges reopened, and Mumbai locals started to ply with time restrictions from 1 February.

Regarding the spike, Minister of Public Health and Family Welfare of Maharashtra, Rajesh Tope, said, “I think that the cases have risen due to various reasons, including starting the local trains.”

“Not just in Mumbai city, cases have risen in some other districts as well. The main issue to be addressed is increasing the testing. The state government has given orders to do so. Following those orders and following COVID-19 protocols is important,” he added.

“The question of an urgent lockdown hasn’t risen yet. The graph is stable. The recoveries have risen. But the honourable CM has given orders for strict implementation of protocols, nevertheless, to avoid a further rise.”
Rajesh Tope, Minister of Public Health and Family Welfare Maharashtra

Pune recorded 621 and 617 new cases on Saturday and Sunday, respectively – these being the highest number of COVID cases in Pune since 13 January. However, it shaw a sharp dip on Tuesday, with 194 cases.

Nagpur, too, has seen a sharp rise in the number of cases in the last one week, from 258 on Monday, 8 February, to 517 new cases on Saturday, 13 February and 509 on Sunday, 14 February, urging officials to defer the reopening of schools.

But, is this spike in numbers a sign of an impending second wave?

FIT talks to Dr Om Shrivastava, Virologist, Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai, and Dr Swapneil Parikh, an internal medicine specialist in Mumbai and author of ‘The Coronavirus: What You Need to Know About the Global Pandemic’, to find out.

Is the Spike Cause for Concern?

“The cause for concern never went away,” says Dr Swapneil Parikh, an internal medicine specialist in Mumbai.

“We’ve seen how the tightening and relaxing of restrictions has lead to multiple peaks in other countries already, and this to be expected,” he adds.

According to Dr Parikh, the degree of transmission of a pathogen depends on three main factors: the agent, the host and the environment, and the interaction of the three.

While the new mutating variants of the agent (the virus) is a cause for concern in itself, the changing temperatures as well as our behaviour in response to it have a major role to play in the spread of the infection.

“When the temperature dips, it allows the virus to spread faster. This is also the case when humidity is particularly high or low.”
Dr Swapneil Parikh, Internal Medicine Specialist

According to Dr Om Shrivastava, Virologist, Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai, it is too early to know if these particular numbers are a sign of impending doom.

However, at the same time, he adds, “It is important to be cautious right now and keep a close eye on the numbers and their progression.”

'Keep Your Guards Up'

With the vaccines being rolled out and the number of new cases starting to dip, an air of indifference and laxity, too, seems to have crept in with public spaces opening-up in full swing and little to no safety protocol (masks, social distancing, sanitisation) being followed.

“People getting complacent and letting their guards down is one of the biggest factors leading to the ‘multiple peaks’. When the restrictions are relaxed, people get relaxed and stop following the safety measures, leading to another spike.”
Dr Swapneil Parikh, Internal Medicine Specialist

Agreeing with Parikh, Dr Shrivastava says: “While it's too early to say if the numbers are a cause for alarm, we need to keep our guards up now more than ever.”

“Now that things are opening up, this is the time to be extra cautious, especially when it comes to the people you live with and work with.”
Dr Om Shrivastava, Virologist, Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai

“Although there isn’t a cause to sound the alarms just yet, we do have to keep the number of people that are in need of hospitalisation down, to ensure the situation doesn't go out of hand,” he added.

It must also be noted that while schools, offices, and commercial establishments are in the process of opening up as we slowly come out of lockdown, India continues to be the second most-affected country globally and ranks 17th among worst-hit nations with active cases.

Although the nationwide inoculation drive that kickstarted on 16 January is entering its second phase of booster doses, it is still restricted to the healthcare workers.

So far 89,99,230 beneficiaries have been vaccinated with the first dose across India.

As for the rest of us, the vaccine is still a long way off to do away with all precautions and guidelines.

As much as we’d like to believe that we have left the pandemic in 2020, the threat of the virus, still, very much looms, and it would be prudent to keep the precautions, social distancing, and masks up if we are to avoid a full-blown devastating second wave.

(The article was first published in FIT and has been republished with permission.)

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