Down – not out: COVID-19 cases surge in India
A rising immunity wall means cases are milder than they once were. But the steep recent spike, accompanied by the reimposition of mask mandates in some places, is a reminder that the pandemic bug is still stalking us.
- 21 April 2023
- 5 min read
- by Nasir Yousufi
Thirty-two-year-old Manish Kumar from Jammu's Reasi region in the high north of India had been in Delhi just a few days when his throat began to scratch.
He had come to the capital to accompany his ailing mother, who was to be treated at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the country's most famous research hospital. Now, he was feeling ill himself. For the first few hours, Manish ignored the sore throat and mild cough, assuming a food allergy was responsible, but soon the symptoms worsened, and his concerns grew. A runny nose, headache, high fever and cough compelled him to take a COVID-19 test. Fifteen minutes later, it was confirmed.
"For all these years, I evaded the infection but unfortunately this time I have contracted it."
– Manish Kumar, 32
"For all these years, I evaded the infection but unfortunately this time I have contracted it. Though I am recovering now, the few initial days of infection were really nauseating," Kumar said.
Kumar, it transpired, was far from alone. COVID-19 infections have seen a sudden, sharp rise in some parts of India. States including Mahrashtra, Delhi, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have registered a steep uptick in the number of cases during the last weeks, with cases in other parts of the country witnessing a more gradual rise.
Densely-populated Maharashtra, which has seen a massive hike in cases in the early months of this year, is home to a staggering 22% of total active cases in the country.
Experts attribute the recent surge to varied factors. "Since it is festivity season, the crowding of people in huge numbers, climate change, and CAB [COVID-appropriate behaviour]-fatigue among people are among main reasons for this surge," said Dr Dhirij Jain, a senior pulmonologist from Holy Family Hospital Bandra, in Maharashtra's Mumbai. "The situation is not alarming, but the key is not to lower the guard. In coming years, the community may witness more such periodic bouts of COVID-19 infections," Dr Jain added.
Symptomatic people ought to immediately isolate themselves and get tested, the physician advises, adding that the more the community normalises CAB, "the more we will succeed in keeping the coronavirus on the edge".
Have you read?
New Delhi has also seen a steep rise in cases. Overall, the severity of the symptoms is reported to be mild, but large numbers of infections mean larger minorities of more severely afflicted patients, and in many incidents, sufferers have been reported to need hospitaliSation and critical care.
"The cases are on the rise, but fortunately the cases of serious illness and mortality are low. As such the situation is not so scary yet, but prevention is always better than cure. We should wear masks and follow SOPs while moving outside," said Dr AK Singh, head of Pulmonology, at Chandan Hospital in Lucknow and a senior consultant at Fortis Hospital in New Delhi.
"The key is not to lower the guard. In coming years, the community may witness more such periodic bouts of COVID-19 infections"
– Dr Dhirij Jain, pulmonologist, Holy Family Hospital Bandra
Apart from transmission-exposure control, boosting immunity plays an important role. People, especially those suffering from co-morbidities should take booster vaccines periodically, Dr Singh said – booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines are pivotal in avoiding infections.
According to the data released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare India, in early April, 106 out of a total 766 districts in the country were reporting a higher-than-10% test positivity rate.
In order to test and review COVID-19 preparedness protocols, two-day mock drills were conducted in all the major government and private hospitals across the cities in the country on April 10 and 11.
At a high level meeting, the Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had asked specialist national agencies to ramp up testing the country.
In Uttar Pradesh, where the daily new cases have increased from fewer than ten in February to around 600 in mid-April, the government has made the face-mask mandatory in public places. Terming the screening of international passengers at airport necessary, the country's most populous state has activated surveillance teams.
Some health experts think that India is seeing the consequences of a generally lowered guard.
"I had almost discarded the use of a face mask from the last six months. But now as the coronavirus cases are again on the rise, I have again started to use triple-layered masks outside my home."
– Pushpa Belani, Marathwada Multispecialty Hospital
"After the third wave last year, most of us think that the coronavirus is over. But that is not the case. It may remain with us for few more seasons. And till then it is better to maintain proper CAB. Keeping cleanliness around and wearing face-masks in crowded places is a key to keep the virus at bay," said Dr Mohammad Saleem, a respected pulmonologist from Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir
In Bandra, Mumbai, Surinder Das, a 53-year-old shopkeeper said that though he recovered in just four days after testing positive last week, he would prefer to keep himself in isolation for a few more days, as the severity of his symptoms in the initial days of infection reminds him of possible risk.
Health workers in many states are on alert following the highest spike in COVID-19 cases during the current year. "I had almost discarded the use of a face mask from the last six months. But now as the coronavirus cases are again on the rise, I have again started to use triple-layered masks outside my home," said Pushpa Belani, a health worker at Marathwada Multispecialty Hospital in Maharashtra.
While the cases in the country surge, the Indian Medical Association in its recent press release has asked the people to go for booster vaccinations, and up their guard against the pandemic virus.