Indian Council for Medical Research chief Balram Bhargava on Monday said that the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic that has hit India was “less severe” than the first one, ANI reported. His comments come at a time when hospitals in India are struggling to contain the second wave of the pandemic, with shortages of beds, oxygen and key medicines reported across states.

Bhargava said individuals are showing much less symptoms of the disease this time. “The symptoms of joint ache, fatigue, muscle ache, loss of smell or sore throat are much less compared to the first wave,” he told ANI. “However, shortness of breath is higher in this wave.”

But, he added, more asymptomatic patients were admitted to the hospitals this year than those with breathlessness.

The ICMR director general said that only a marginally higher proportion of patients were younger in this wave. In the first wave, he said, the average age of patients was 50 years and in this one it was 49. During both the waves, 70% of infected patients were above 40 years, he added. Bhargava also said that the older population continues to be more vulnerable to the infection and needed to be hospitalised.

The ICMR chief said Indians have been very lax in following Covid-related guidelines, contributing to the surge in cases. “And various unidentified mutation [of the virus], of them some are of concern – UK, Brazilian and South African variants, which have been demonstrated to have higher transmissibility,” he added.

Daily coronavirus cases in India jumped a record 2,73,810 on Monday. The country now has 1,50,61,919 total cases since pandemic broke out in January 2020, second only to the United States. Deaths rose by 1,619 to 178,769.

Delhi will be under a six-day lockdown from Monday night, while several other states have already announced similar restrictions.