Aggressively testing for the coronavirus, along with vaccination and preventing crowding, could help contain the latest surge in infections in the country, All India Institute Of Medical Sciences Director General Randeep Guleria said, The Indian Express reported on Monday.
Guleria, during the session of the newspaper’s Idea Exchange event, however, said it would be “very, very difficult” to control crowds. “These are super-spreading events,” he said. “We have to develop strategies based on what we can do despite people not following Covid-appropriate behaviour. The easiest thing to do is to blame the others and say look, it’s your fault, you didn’t wear your mask. But as healthcare professionals, we have to accept behavioural changes and find a solution.”
Guleria highlighted that vaccination was not the only strategy to control the sharp increase in coronavirus cases, since it takes a few weeks after inoculation to develop an antibody response. “Along with vaccination, we need to have an aggressive testing, tracking and isolation policy,” he said, according the newspaper.
The AIIMS chief noted that the states had been actively following the policy six months ago, but had now become lax. “If a person tests positive, no one really goes and checks who they have come in contact with and we fail to break the chain of transmission,” he said, according to The Indian Express. “So we need to identify areas where we are seeing the surge, develop them into containment zones, test everyone in that area, isolate those who are positive, quarantine those who have come in close contact with patients and test them after five to seven days, and not allow people from that area to go to another area.”
Guleria added that the surge in coronavirus cases would not remain confined to a small area, since a huge number of people were undertaking inter-state travel.
Current Covid wave much steeper
Guleria said that India’s second coronavirus wave was steeper than the previous one. “It has taken much less time to cross the 80,000 cases per day mark this time,” he added, according to The Indian Express. On Monday, India registered its highest ever daily caseload, reporting 1,03,558 new cases in 24 hours.
The AIIMS chief expressed concern about people not following Covid-appropriate behaviour. “Despite the numbers crossing the 80,000-mark, people are planning holidays, hotels are full at all hill stations,” he said. “So that is worrying.”
Guleria added that there is no data to suggest that India’s population had a good degree of immunity against the infection. “A majority of our population is susceptible and we are also seeing new variants of the virus now, which we know can be more infectious,” he added. “They can also develop ‘immune escape’, which may allow some degree of reinfections.”
The AIIMS chief said that presently, the transmission of the coronavirus was higher. “The curve is much steeper and it could be related to the fact that the virus is more infectious, it is spreading more and we are also allowing it to spread because of our lack of Covid-appropriate behaviour,” he said, according to The Indian Express.
‘Don’t see coronavirus disappearing completely’
Guleria said that the coronavirus was likely to become an endemic disease. “Some sort of a seasonal pattern will develop as far as Covid is concerned” he said, according to The Indian Express. “But I don’t see it disappearing totally and we will have to learn to live with it.”
The AIIMS chief added that the coronavirus will continue to have waves, but the number of infections would gradually reduce as more people get inoculated.
Guleria also said that the imposition of a countrywide lockdown seemed unlikely, but there was a need to enforce containment strategies in areas witnessing a surge in cases.
India reported a record 1,03,558 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the taking the overall count to 1,25,89,067. The toll went up to 1,65,101, as 478 fatalities were reported in the last day. The active cases rose for the 26th straight day to 7,41,830, while more than 7.91 crore vaccines have so far been administered.