COVID-19: Large crowds, mutant strains behind surge of cases in India, says AIIMS Chief

Citing a sudden spike in the COVID-19 cases in India, All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) chief Dr Randeep Guleria has warned that there is nothing to stop the second wave of COVID-19 in India from being as severe as the first unless people follow appropriate behaviour and are quickly vaccinated. Not following precautionary measures and presence of new covid strains have resulted a surge in cases, said the AIIMS chief. The cases could spread even more rapidly if basic protective steps like wearing masks and rigorous contact-tracing are not followed.

In an interview with NDTV, Dr Guleria said, "There is a loss of Covid-appropriate behaviour. Now people feel that the pandemic is over because vaccines are here. So they fail to wear masks. We see large crowds gathering - again without masks. Many of these crowded events have become super-spreading events."

"The other issue is that we are become negligent in the basic principle of testing, tracking, and isolating than what were doing six months ago. The third point is that the virus itself is mutating and some of the variants are more infectious," he added.

Meanwhile in India, daily rise in infections today was the highest recorded in 112 days, while the number of fatalities has risen to 1,59,755 with 197 daily new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed. Maharashtra, Punjab, Kerala, Karnataka, and Gujarat are the five states that have recorded the highest single-day surge since yesterday.

The number of cases and mortality could both rise in the second wave, according to Dr Guleria.

Speaking about the vaccination's efficacy, he said, "some studies show vaccine efficacy falling 10-20% when it comes to the South African variant of Covid-19. "As we go along with vaccinations, other variants may appear." We will have to be ready to tweak the vaccines...it is not a cause of concern since we do not have enough data. But we need to be vigilant," he added.

Advising on curbing the COVID-19 spread, he said that containment zones need to be developed, he said, adding that aggressive testing and quarantine must be followed. Mere night curfews and weekend lockdowns may not alone stop the chain of transmission.

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