On Tuesday, Dr Balram Bhargava, director-general of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) while addressing a press conference on the coronavirus said, “We already know that we are in stage 2. We are in not in stage 3, clearly.”
But what is Phase 2? When did India enter Phase 1? And how long will it be before India gets into Phase 3? Will it even get into Phase 6?
Here’s how the pandemic will spread
Phase 1: The influenza virus usually circulates continuously among animals and birds. In this phase, no virus circulating among animals have been reported to cause infections in humans
Phase 2: The animal influenza may have infected humans and is considered a pandemic threat. According to the ICMR chief, India is in phase two, even as the number of reported cases in India has risen to 139, although this number is expected to rise in the next few days
Phase 3: The virus has caused sporadic cases or small cluster of disease amongst humans, but has not resulted in human-to-human transmission. However, limited human-to-human transmission may occur under some circumstances, for example, when there is close contact between an infected person and an unprotected caregiver. However, limited transmission under such restricted circumstances does not indicate that the virus has gained the level of transmissibility among humans necessary to cause a pandemic.
Phase 4: During this phase, one witnesses “community-level outbreaks.” The ability to cause sustained disease outbreaks in a community marks a significant upwards shift in the risk for a pandemic. Phase 4 indicates a significant increase in risk of a pandemic, but does not necessarily mean that a pandemic is a forgone conclusion.
Phase 5: Phase 5 is characterized by human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region. While most countries will not be affected at this stage, the declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.
Phase 6, the pandemic phase, is characterized by community level outbreaks in at least one other country in a different WHO region in addition to the criteria defined in Phase 5. Designation of this phase will indicate that a global pandemic is under way.
It has been nearly five months since the first case of coronavirus was reported in China in November. Even as the government suppressed the data, the increase in the number of cases in the following months created widespread panic the world over. While Chinese experts feel that the coronavirus outbreak will subside in June, it’s too early to tell.
According to the WHO, post-peak period signifies that pandemic activity appears to be decreasing; however, it is uncertain if additional waves will occur and countries will need to be prepared for a second wave.