NEW DELHI: Amid unprecedented rising in the COVID-19 cases, the situation looks grim in India and the country is staring at the second wave of deadly infections in a few weeks.
Sharing his concerns over the situation, Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS-Delhi has warned that the new coronavirus strains in the country could be more deadly than ever.
Speaking about the sudden rise in COVID-19 cases, the Delhi AIIMS chief said that the situation is similar to what it was in the UK during Christmas. The AIIMS director pointed out that coronavirus, like all other viruses, has a tendency to mutate as it multiplies.
While some mutations are inconsequential, some may make the virus more contagious or dangerous or both, he said. However, he also said that the negligence on part of people in following preventive measures like not wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining social distance, may also lead to a surge in cases.
Talking about the second COVID-19 wave, which is expected to see an upward curve in a few weeks from now, he warned that it could be more dangerous.
As per Health Ministry data, this brings the total number of active cases in the country to 5,84,055. At the same time, the death toll has now risen to 1,62,927. The government has so far maintained that there is no evidence that the surge is linked to a mutation of the COVID-19. The AIIMS chief, however, said that although there is no data to back this, it does not mean that it is not happening.
Meanwhile, on Thursday morning, India reported 72,330 new cases, 40,382 discharges, and 459 deaths. Maharashtra continues to lead the list of states with more than 3.5 lakh active cases, followed by Karnataka, Kerala, Chhattisgarh and Punjab.
As cases continue to rise, many states have implemented restrictions such as the demarcation of containment zones, night curfews or localised lockdowns. Authorities have warned that more preventive measures can be taken depending on the situation.
The Centre has warned that the situation is going from "bad to worse" and urged states to achieve 100 per cent vaccination coverage of those above the age of 45 years in surge districts within the next two weeks.
Thus far, more than 6.43 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered. On April 1, India launched COVID-19 vaccination for all people aged 45 and above as the country reported this year's highest single-day rise of 72,330 new infections in a span of 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally of cases to 1,22,21,665.
Seeking to exponentially expand the countrywide anti-coronavirus inoculation drive, the Centre has decided to keep all public and private sector COVID-19 vaccination centres (CVCs) operational throughout April, including on gazetted holidays.
The Union health ministry has written to all states and union territories on Thursday and asked them to make necessary arrangements for this to optimally utilise all vaccination centres across the public and private sectors to ensure rapid increase in the pace and coverage of COVID inoculation.
"This decision is in line with the graded and pro-active approach employed by the government of India along with the states and union territories for COVID-19 vaccination," the health ministry said. More than 6.75 crore vaccine doses have been administered across the country so far.
The countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on January 16 with healthcare workers (HCWs) getting inoculated and vaccination of frontline workers (FLWs) started from February 2.
The next phase of COVID-19 vaccination commenced from March 1 for those over 60 years of age and for people aged 45 and above with specified co-morbid conditions. A cumulative 6,75,36,392 vaccine doses have been given across the country so far, according to a provisional report till 8 pm on Thursday.
Presently, two vaccines are being used in India -- Covishield (Oxford-AstraZeneca's vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India) and Covaxin (manufactured by Bharat Biotech Limited).