In a letter to all the States and Union Territories (UTs), the Union Home Ministry on Wednesday said blatant violations of COVID-19 norms have been observed in several parts of the country, including hill stations.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, in the letter, also said COVID-appreciate behaviour is not being adhered to in public transport and massive crowds are thronging marketplaces, violating social distancing norms.
Noting that though the reach of vaccination is increasing considerably, Bhalla emphasised the second wave of COVID-19 is not yet over and there is no room for complacency.
He said that with the decline in the number of active cases, states and UTs have started reopening economic activities in a gradual manner but the process of relaxing restrictions should be carefully calibrated.
Meanwhile, Bhalla added that the increase in the 'R'-factor (reproduction number) in some of the states is a matter of concern.
"You may be aware that any increase in 'R' factor above 1.0 is an indicator of spread of COVID-19. Therefore, it is important that the authorities concerned shall be made responsible for ensuring COVID Appropriate Behaviour (CAB) in all crowded places, such as shops, malls, markets, market complexes, weekly markets, restaurants and bars, 'mandis, bus stations, railway platforms, stations, public parks and gardens, gymnasium, banquet halls, marriage halls, stadia, sports complexes (if opened up by the State) as well as at all areas identified as hotspots for transmission of COVID19 virus," he said in the letter.
What is the 'R'-factor and why its increase a cause of worry?
The 'R'-factor indicates the speed at which the infection is spreading in the country. An 'R'-factor below 1 indicates that each infected individual is on average passing on the disease to less than one person.
However, the R-factor has gone up for the country, researchers at the Chennai-based Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc) have said. It has gone from 0.78 on June 30 to 0.88 in the first week of July.
Sitabhra Sinha, Professor of Physics and Dean of Computational Biology at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai told news agency ANI that the data for this analysis was obtained from a daily updated database.
"If you have a large number of active cases persisting for a long time, chances increase of conditions coming together to create a super-spreader event, which might well lead to a third wave," he said.
He said R-value saw an increase in February this year when it rose from 0.93 to 1.02. It went further up during the second wave in April and reached a peak of 1.31 on April 26. Since then, it was been declining till the recent increase.
"When the pandemic started in mid-March last year, it had a much faster rate of spread. The R-value, I estimated between March 14 and April 5 was 2.51 +- 0.07. This subsequently reduced to 1.70 +- 0.04 estimated over April 4 to April 16 and then to 1.34 +- 0.01 estimated over April 13 to May 15, most possibly a consequence of the nationwide lockdown," Sinha said.
"If the previous rate of 0.78 had continued we would have expected less than 1.5 lakh active cases by 27th of this month. On the other hand, with the later rate of 0.88, we will see above 3 lakh active cases by the same date (provided R does not change further). This means with a small difference of only 0.1 in R, we will have twice the number of active cases in about two weeks time," he added.
(With ANI and PTI inputs)