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Why sudden flare up in Covid-19 cases in India? Scientists identify 3 reasons

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date
Why sudden flare up in Covid-19 cases in India? Scientists identify 3 reasons

New Delhi: The second wave of coronavirus has seen an unprecedented rise in Covid-19 cases with more and more people getting infected with the deadly virus in past few weeks. Today for the seventh consecutive day, the country reported more than 1 lakh cases in the last 24 hours. Though there are no clear answers behind the sudden spike in the cases, but top scientists have given four reasons.

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One of the reasons for the spread of the infection is the emerging mutants – both imported and homegrown. “A new double mutant has emerged in India and is reported in 15-20 per cent of cases analysed from Maharashtra. If this percentage goes up further, it would be a clear indication of its role in the Maharashtra surge,” virologists Shahid Jameel told media.

The complex double mutant strains:

One thing that could be blamed for the sudden rise in the number of infections, is the emerging mutants – both imported and homegrown. In late March, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) announced that a new variant had been identified in samples of saliva taken from people in Maharashtra, Delhi and Punjab. The genome sequencing carried out by Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG) identified two important mutations in the variant dubbed as “double mutant”.

“A new double mutant has emerged in India and is reported in 15-20 per cent of cases analysed from Maharashtra. If this percentage goes up further, it would be a clear indication of its role in the Maharashtra surge,” virologist Shahid Jameel told media.

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In India, variants first identified in the UK, South Africa and Brazil were found in the samples. Explaining that the UK variant is known to be about 50 per cent more infectious, Jameel said one of the two mutations in the double mutant was also found in California, US, where it was associated with increased transmission.

Not following COVID-19 protocol

Virologists Shahid Jameel and T Jacob John are in agreement to this factor that lowering guards by Indian citizens is “certainly one valid explanation” that gave rise to the second wave of coronavirus outbreak.

“Everything opening up to pre-Covid levels and behaviour that was no longer risk-averse exposed the susceptible population in a big way. A new factor is emerging mutants — both imported and homegrown,” the eminent virologist added.

“The two factors came together and we were leaderless in response at the critical time. The speed of spread in the second wave is twice as fast as in the first wave. Partly due to variants and partly lowering of the guard,” John explained.

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Vaccination Campaign

The myths and unwillingness to get a vaccine jab on the part of citizens also contributed to the rise in Covid-19 cases. Talking about this Mr Jameel said the government needs to speed it up. “For various reasons, those eligible, including healthcare and frontline workers, were hesitant to get vaccines. Those above 60 also did not show enough eagerness even though cases had started going up by early March. Now we are on a very fast rising curve with only 0.7 per cent Indians having received both doses and only about 5 per cent having received one dose. That is too low to make an impact,” said Jameel.

Reinfection rate

Not only this, but reinfection in already recovered corona patients also spike the number of new cases. As per a recent study by the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), around 20% to 30% of those infected with Covid-19 lose immunity after six months. This has also been pointed out by health experts as one of the reasons why people who have already recovered from Covid-19, catch the infection again, leading to a spike in the number of cases.

According to scientists, the ongoing second-wave could peak by mid-April, following which the infections may see a steep decline by the end of May.

India’s Covid-19 tally

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As per Union health ministry data showed on Tuesday, India recorded 161,736 fresh Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours. With this, the infection tally has gone up to 1,36,89,453. In the last 24 hours, 879 COVID-related fatalities were reported in the country, which pushed the death toll to 171,058. The active number of cases stands at 12,64,698.

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