India might witness third wave this month; could peak in October: Report

New Delhi: The country has just begun to get back to a sense of normalcy while still trying to heal from the wounds left behind by the second wave of COVID-19 and already we are set in for a threat of the third wave.

India may see another rise in COVID-19 cases as soon as August with the third wave peaking with less than 100,000 infections a day in the best-case scenario or nearly 150,000 in the worst scenario, researchers have said.

Bloomberg reported citing researchers led by Mathukumalli Vidyasagar and Manindra Agrawal at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Hyderabad and Kanpur respectively that the surge in COVID-19 cases will push the third wave of the pandemic, which may peak in October.

Vidyasagar told Bloomberg in an email that states with high COVID-19 cases, such as Kerala and Maharashtra, could “skew the picture.”

The third wave of COVID-19 is unlikely to be as brutal as the second wave when India reported 400,000-plus daily cases and came down after that. The prediction by the researchers, who accurately forecast the lessening of the surge in Covid-19 cases earlier this year, is based on a mathematical model.

K VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser, had stated that as the virus mutates further, the third wave of COVID infection is inevitable and it is necessary to be prepared for new waves. 

Experts have also warned that the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which spreads as easily as chickenpox and can be passed on by vaccinated people, can fuel the surge. According to data from the Indian Sars-CoV-2 Genomic Consortium (INSACOG), nearly 8 of every 10 Covid-19 cases in May, June, and July were caused by the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

The R-factor and why should we be cautious

The pandemic is “still raging” in the country and eight states have shown a rise in the R-factor, the government said on Tuesday, calling it a “significant problem”.

As many as 44 districts have reported a high case positivity and the Delta-driven second wave is still not over, warned VK Paul, who heads the government’s Covid task force. Eighteen districts showed an increasing trend in cases in the last four weeks, according to the government.

He said the number of districts with high positivity had decreased from the previous week but per state, the number of districts with high positivity had decreased from the previous week. Now new states are showing districts with high positivity, he said.

The states where the R-factor is more than one are Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, and Kashmir, Lakshadweep, Tamil Nadu, Mizoram, Karnataka, Puducherry, and Kerala.

Only Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra show a declining trend and states like Bengal, Nagaland, Haryana, Goa, Delhi, and Jharkhand the R-factor is at 1.

“Whenever R number is above one, it means that the case trajectory is increasing and it needs to be controlled,” explained Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Union Health Ministry.

The ‘R’ factor – a statistic used worldwide to track and control the spread of the virus – is a measure of how many people are being infected by one infected person.

An ‘R’ of 2.0 indicates that one person with COVID-19 will, on average, infect two others. Each of those two will infect two more (spreading the disease to an average of four people).

In a pandemic, the ideal ‘R’ target is below 1.0, which ensures that the virus will eventually stop spreading because it cannot infect enough people to sustain the outbreak.

Meanwhile, India reported 30,549 new Covid cases and 422 deaths in the past 24 hours. It is a sharp drop from the 40,134 cases reported on Monday.