Amidst resurgence of covid-19 cases in the country, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has extended the enforcement of existing guidelines for surveillance, containment and caution up to March 31st 2021.

In an order issued on Friday the MHA also advised the States/ Union Territories to speed up the vaccination of the target population so as to break the chain of transmission and overcome the pandemic. “While there has been a substantial decline in the active and new covid-19 cases, there is need to maintain surveillance, containment and caution so as to fully overcome the pandemic,” the MHA order said.

Accordingly, Containment Zones continue to be demarcated carefully; prescribed containment measures strictly followed within these zones; COVID-appropriate behaviour promoted and strictly enforced; and the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) prescribed in respect of various permitted activities followed scrupulously, the MHA said.

Therefore, the focussed approach on surveillance, containment and strict observance of the guidelines/ SOPs, as envisaged in the Guidelines issued on 27.01.2021; need to be enforced strictly by States and Union Territories, it further said.

With swelling number of fresh covid-19 cases, India appears to mimic the characteristics of countries who have already witnessed or are witnessing the second wave of coronavirus infections. The country reported 16,577 coronavirus infections and 120 deaths in last 24 hours which is surpassing the average of below 10000 cases and 100 deaths each day until last month.

Over 86.18% of the new cases are from 6 States. Maharashtra continues to report the highest daily new cases at 8,702. It is followed by Kerala with 3,677 while Punjab reported 563 new cases, the union health ministry data shows. Similarly, six States account for 85.83%of the new deaths. Maharashtra saw the maximum casualties (56). Kerala reported 14 deaths and Punjab reported 13 deaths.

Public health experts caution that the India may be at the verge if second wave of the covid-19 pandemic, given the fact that there has been complacency in the adhering to the covid appropriate behaviour. “As the number of cases reduced in the past months, major risk factors, especially regard for strict social distancing norms eased considerably among the population. A wide complacency has surfaced, the damage of which can potentially offset the achievements made in managing the infection so far,” said Suresh Sharma, head, Population Research Center, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi University.

Sharma argues that higher population density during public gatherings, housing situation, etc. has been significantly normalised, which in essence could have serious implications for the recent surge in the covid-19 cases. Another reason of the recent surge could be attributed to the closed space gatherings during winter months; nature of such arrangements that is essentially regarded conducive to the spread of the infection. “The onset of a potential second wave in India is almost similar to what has been witnessed in the USA where the second wave was noted during the summer months and was mostly contained to sunbelt states,” said Sharma.

“Among countries that have witnessed a second wave of the pandemic, majority of these with the exception of Germany, have recorded a relatively lower spike in mortality rates when compared to the spike in deaths recorded during the first wave,” he said. India’s Active Caseload is 1,55,986 on Friday comprising 1.41% of the total positive cases which slipped below 1.3% in last few weeks. This is largely attributable to the upsurge in daily new cases in some States/UTs, the government has said.

Sharma further said that nevertheless, the infection rates observed, especially in many European countries, were worse off than what was seen during the first wave. “Takeaways from countries such as Denmark, often regarded as a good performer during both the waves, should be noted as India stands at a verge of being hit with a second wave. Efforts made by countries which have successfully managed to keep the second wave short-lived should be implemented, as suitable,” he said.

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