Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, Uttarakhand.
Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, Uttarakhand.

Twice we have lost the plot – the first time unable to fathom or grapple with the very uncanny nature of the pandemic and the, second time, by our complacency and misreading of the situation.

But this time India's apex doctors' body, the Indian Medical Association (IMA), has lost no time in cajoling the Central and state governments to read the writing on the wall, warning that a third wave was just around the corner.

The grim warning came just when India’s daily vaccinations have dipped to 16 per cent over the past week, to an average of just 3.5m a day, as the supply of free jabs to government inoculation centres remained tight, forcing many to down shutters intermittently for lack of supplies. India’s average daily vaccinations have now fallen for two consecutive weeks.

"With the global evidence available and given the history of any pandemic, the third wave is inevitable and imminent...However, it is painful to note...in many parts of the country both the government and public are complacent and engaged in mass gatherings without following Covid protocols," an IMA press release said on Monday.

"Tourist bonanza, pilgrimage travel, religious fervour is all needed but can wait for a few more months. Opening up these rituals and enabling people without vaccination to go scot-free in these mass gatherings are potential super spreaders for the Covid third wave," it said.

The global evidence is indeed overwhelming: cases are on the rise in the UK again, which is grappling with the Delta strain as it gears up to lift restrictions on June 19. Australia’s New South Wales, too, has recently reported its largest single day spike, leading to two-week lockdown in Sydney. Parts of the US are reporting alarmingly high fresh cases.

Closer home, an increasing 'R' factor, or reproduction rate, of the coronavirus in Kerala and Maharashtra has triggered concerns of a renewed wave of COVID-19 in these states - one that could fuel a national spike.

A high 'R' value means the falling national active caseload - on Monday it was around 4.5 lakh, the lowest since late-March – but this must be viewed with caution, particularly since the decline is sluggish, a study by scientists conducted by Chennai's Institute of Mathematical Science suggests, reports NDTV.

Maharashtra - which reported 8535 new infections on Sunday to add to its ctive load of 1.19 lakh cases - has seen its 'R' factor climb from 0.79 in mid-May to 0.84 by May 30 and 0.89 by end-June. The most recent data indicates its 'R' factor is now close to 1.

Kerala - which reported 12,220 new cases to take its active load to 1.15 lakh - saw its 'R' factor briefly cross the 1.0-mark earlier this month; recent data suggests it remains dangerously close to that level.

"The difference seems small... but it indicates exponential rate of increase. Even a .1 change can make a big difference going forward, in terms of how many active cases there will be," Dr Sitabhra Sinha, lead researcher on the study, said, reports NDTV.

Therefore, holding any festival is not advisable as it can be dangerous. IMA requests the government to reconsider its decision regarding any kind of mass gatherings," IMA president, Dr JA Jayalal told news agency ANI. But the government was not exactly listening with the Jaagannath Yatra looming on the horizon.

Last month, the Himachal Pradesh government announced Covid-19 relaxations, following which, tourists swarmed to the cooler climes of Shimla, Manali Kullu-Manali, and Dharamsala. Videos on the social media brought out the frenzy – the momentum towards self-destruct.

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