Fingers crossed as India fears 2nd Covid-19 wave after inexplicable dip in infections

By David Asta Alares

New Delhi, Feb 25 (efe-epa).- Kush Sharma, a doctor at a state-run hospital in New Delhi, expresses relief over the declining Covid-19 cases across India, with figures now hovering around 10,000 new infections a day.

The head of the coronavirus task force at Lok Nayak hospital, one of the capital’s leading health centers fighting the disease, recalled that just a few months ago Delhi’s medical services were on the verge of a collapse when the country recorded nearly 100,000 infections each day.

“It was scary. We were losing patients,” said Sharma.

Experts consulted by EFE said it was difficult to explain with certainty the dramatic decline of coronavirus cases.

However, of late, there has been a worrying increase in infections in several states, sparking fears of a second wave.

India, a country of 1.3 billion people, has already recorded more than 11 million infections and is the second most affected country in the world in terms of the caseload, behind the United States, which has 28 million coronavirus patients.

Several analysts expected India to go past the US in September last year when it was recording nearly 100,000 infections a day. But that is yet to happen.

However, official numbers do not reflect the impact of the pandemic in India, public health expert and former head of the National Health System Resource Center, T. Sundarararaman, told EFE.

“There is a difference between reported cases and seroprevalence positive cases. And you can see in UP (Uttar Pradesh in the north) that for every 130 expected cases from seroprevalence studies only one or two are reported,” he said, even though the difference is less in other areas with better infrastructure.

Sundararaman does not, however, raise doubts about the downward trend in cases in the country, registered within months of the authorities withdrawing the strict lockdown conditions imposed at the end of March last year.

“The trend does show that there was peak (in the number of cases) in September, October and November, but now it has subsided,” he said.

The reasons for the decline remain unclear. Could it be because India has achieved long-awaited herd immunity?

“I don’t think we know exactly what is happening. But the disease burns out in certain sectors and then rises in others. Overall seroprevalence is at the 20 to 30 percent range, which is not good enough,” he stressed.

He was also skeptical that the coronavirus vaccination program – that began in January and under which the government seeks to inoculate 300 million people in the first half of the year – has affected the pandemic so far.

The Indian government has frequently stressed that the coronavirus mortality rate is around 1.5 percent in the country, half as much as in other equally affected countries such as the US.

Dhruv Chaudhry, a coordinating officer for Covid-19 in the northern state of Haryana, pointed to several possible factors for this, including India’s young population.

But even here, Chaudhry, who is responsible for testing the Covaxin vaccine – made by the Indian laboratory Bharat Biotech – at Rohtak’s Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, expressed his reservations against official data that do not show deaths in suspected cases of coronavirus.

“I feel probably one of the major reasons has been, it’s again a presumption, a very liberal use of corticoids (for treatment), which is available in this country,” Chaudhry said.

Sharma gave other theories from Lok Nayak Hospital, which now has only 20 patients admitted in the intensive care unit compared to the 300-400 in July.

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