Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath on Monday claimed that India’s third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, fuelled by the Omicron variant, looked mild, and that 90% of the coronavirus patients in the state were asymptomatic and were being treated under home isolation. However, he urged citizens not to lower their guard.

At a press briefing, Adityanath said that unlike in the second wave, Covid patients were now recovering within three to five days.

“If a patient rests for three days, he is testing negative,” he said. “This is a big difference as compared to the second wave when some people even took a month to recover.”

The Uttar Pradesh chief minister also said that the rate of hospitalisation in the third wave seemed to be low. He cited the example of Lucknow where there are over 4,800 active cases. “Out of these, only 45 patients are in hospitals,” he added. “Most of these hospitalised patients have been admitted due to comorbidities or other illnesses. The Covid infection in them is very mild.”

Adityanath’s comments come at a time when Uttar Pradesh is reporting a massive surge in Covid cases. On Sunday, the state registered 7,695 fresh infections, which is 13 times higher than the 552 cases it reported last Sunday. Currently, there are 33,900 active cases in the state.

Lucknow and Noida have the maximum cases in the state. However, the state government has attributed the rise in cases to more number of tests. It added that 2.22 lakh samples were tested in the last 24 hours.

Amid the uptick in cases, Uttar Pradesh has closed all educational institutions till January 16. A night curfew is in place in the state between 10 pm and 6 am. Gyms have been shut in districts that have more than 1,000 active cases.

The state has so far fully vaccinated only 53% of its adult population. Adityanath urged residents to get their vaccine shots.

The rise in Covid cases come as Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh are less than a month away. Elections will be held in Uttar Pradesh in seven phases starting on February 10. The votes will be counted on March 10.

The Election Commission has barred all political rallies and roadshows in five poll-bound state till January 15.

Last week, Adityanath had compared the Omicron variant to viral fever. “While it is true that Omicron infections can spread rapidly, it is also true that the Omicron variant is much weaker than the second wave...It is just a common viral fever,” Adityanath had said.

While studies have concluded that the Omicron strain was less likely to cause severe disease than the Delta variant, scientists have also stressed that the new variant could spread faster due to a higher number of mutations and its ability to evade the immune response offered by vaccines.

Three weeks ago, Azra Ghani, co-author of a study carried out by the Imperial College in London categorically said: “Even if individual cases are mild, Omicron still poses a serious risk to hospitals because cases are exploding so quickly. We are not at a place to treat this as a cold.”

Scientists involved in the studies conducted in countries like South Africa, the United States and United Kingdom have also cautioned that the impact of the Omicron variant could be different in various nations, depending on factors such as co-morbidity among patients, vaccine coverage and the number of people who have had prior infections.

On Monday, India registered 1,79,723 new Covid-19 cases, taking the overall tally to 3,57,07,727 since the pandemic began in the country in January 2020. The number of new cases was 12.58% higher than Sunday’s count of 1,59,632 cases. The nationwide toll rose to 4,83,936 as 146 persons died due to the coronavirus in the last 24 hours.