The recent surge in Covid-19 cases in the country is part of the new normal as the virus continues to mutate, experts said on Monday and added that use of masks and booster doses are imperative to tackle the disease.
India on Monday recorded 8,084 fresh Covid cases, the third straight day that the tally has passed the 8,000-mark, with the active caseload standing at 47,995. The country also recorded a total of 10 deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the overall fatalities due to 5,24,771, as per data from the Union Health Ministry.
According to the health experts, the latest surge is driven by sub-strains of the Omicron variant, namely BA.2, BA.4 and BA.5.
Majority of cases are seen as less severe, requiring less hospitalisation, but with high transmission levels.
"Rising cases are probably due to a new subtype of Omicron variant. No need to get panicked about it as it's causing mostly upset respiratory tract infections with very rare severe disease," Dr Harshal R. Salve, Associate Professor at Centre for Community Medicine, AIIMS, told IANS.
"Such peaks will be expected in future as mutation in the virus is a continuous phenomenon," he added.
Currently, India has reported 50,000 cases in a week, the biggest since the January wave.
Maharashtra and Kerala reported the highest Covid cases, with 16,370 and 15,363 cases, respectively.
States that breached the 1,000-mark include Karnataka (3,651), Delhi (2,442), Haryana (1,617), Tamil Nadu (1,332), Uttar Pradesh (1,212) and Telangana (1,039).
Chennai and Mumbai have also recorded a sharp spike in the number of hospitalisations.
"The reasons for the current wave include, but are not limited to the newer variants like BA.4, the opening up of the public places and indoor meetings, not mandating masks, reopening of the school and waning immunity," Dr Dipu TS, Associate Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases, Amrita Hospital, Kochi, told IANS.
"The variant responsible is Omicron BA.1-BA.2 and in some cases it could be other sub lineages," added Dr Rahul Pandit, Director-Critical Care, Fortis Hospitals Mumbai, and also member of national and Maharashtra's Covid-19 Taskforce.
The health experts emphasised the need for mandating masks in indoor meetings where social distancing cannot be practised; and discouraging symptomatic individuals from attending the school, colleges, workplace and also public places of worship and gatherings.
"Implementation of masking is a regulatory decision. For our own safety, masking should become a health habit. Masking is recommended in indoor spaces because ventilation in offices, halls, and auditoriums is low, therefore it will limit the transmission of infections," Pandit said.
While there is no reason to panic, Dipu said: "The current Covid wave, though more transmissible, is milder in severity. But as the numbers rise it's difficult to ignore the fact that the immunity is waning as the majority got vaccinated a year ago.".
The country has administered Covid vaccines to 195 crore people, which includes 91.69 crore total first doses and 83.37 crore second doses to those aged 18 years and above, as per the Health Ministry.
But only 33,08,375 lakh precautionary doses have been administered to beneficiaries aged 18-59 years and about 3.54 crore to those aged above 60, healthcare workers and frontline workers so far.
"Together with the fact that the third dose has not been taken by the majority of the population, we need to educate the masses on the need for a booster dose so that the immunity gets boosted and it in turn boosts the herd immunity," Dipu said.