India has entered the list of 10 countries worst hit by the virus after record spike in the number of cases for four consecutive days, pushing the tally of infections to over 1.38 lakh, surpassing Iran, according to the John Hopkins University data.
The country registered 154 deaths and a record jump of 6,977 cases in the last 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 1,38,845 and death toll to 4,021 on Monday with some experts attributing the spike in cases to the lockdown relaxations, including partial resumption of rail services and road transport along with the return of the migrant workers, while others say the rise in cases is due to enhanced testing capacity in the country.
Domestic passenger flights also resumed operations on Monday after a gap of two months. India is the tenth most affected nation by the pandemic after US, Russia, UK, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Germany, Turkey and France, as per the JHU data.
The country has recorded 6,088, 6,654, 6,767 and 6977 cases on May 22, 23, 24 and 25 respectively. Also, the number of RT-PCR tests for detection of Covid-19 in India crossed the 30-lakh mark on Monday.
Commenting on the partial resumption of rail and road transport services, Dr Chandrakant S Pandav, former president of Indian Public Health Association and Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine, said the relaxations will create an enabling environment for the virus infection to flourish.
"Now, the government will have to ensure strong surveillance and monitoring to curb the infection, which otherwise will overwhelm the healthcare system," said Pandav, former HOD of the Centre for Community Medicine at AIIMS. However, Professor K Srinath Reddy, president of Public Health Foundation of India, said an increase in the number of cases reflects both an increase in testing rates and an increase in spread.
"What we need to see is the number of new tests performed per day and the new cases identified from them. We also have to see if the testing criteria have remained the same between the two periods of comparison. "We may open up gradually but will have to continue case detection, contact tracing and follow personal protection measures as vigorously as possible," he added.
Noted lung surgeon Dr Arvind Kumar cautioned given the Covid-19 situation right now, "India is heading towards a very chaotic situation from here on". "The rate at which thousands of cases are being reported daily, we will be moving upwards in the top 10 countries bracket which we have entered now.”
Kumar, who works at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said, the first lockdown and to a certain extent second phase were "managed well".
"However, from third lockdown onwards, a series of disastrous steps have been taken by authorities, from opening of liquor shops and then resuming of flights from today. If the flights were not resumed for another two weeks, what harm would have happened, "he asked.
Kumar warned by June-end, "India will see a massive surge in cases". Dr Vikas Maurya, Additional Director and head of pulmonology, at Fortis, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi, said, "With the reopening of economy, we will see a surge for sure in the initial period". "Whether surge will abate or rise, will depend on how the situation is managed by the authorities at all levels, and how people behave in public at large. This lockdown hopefully has taught people to be more disciplined, practice social distancing, and so, future scenario will also depend on how our demographically diverse population behaves," the doctor said.
Maurya cautioned if the cases do not abate in few weeks, the lockdown should be imposed again, "otherwise things will go out of control.”
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