All India Institute of Medical Sciences Director Dr Randeep Guleria on Friday said those who were fully-vaccinated against the coronavirus also need to continue wearing masks and following physical distancing guidelines, The Times of India reported.

Guleria told the newspaper that was an uncertainty about the extent of protection that vaccines can offer against the emerging new variants of the coronavirus. “I think there is need to be cautious and at least till we have more data,” the AIIMS director said. “It is better to wear masks and maintain physical distance because no matter what the variants are, masks and physical distancing will protect.”

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that fully-vaccinated people need not wear masks or practice physical distancing indoors or outdoors, CNN reported.

However, unidentified health ministry officials told The Times of India that there were no plans to revise the advisory about the Covid-related protocols in India. “We cannot take such a risk at this stage and though very few, there have been breakthrough infections,” one official said. “There is no way the masks can be kept aside.”

India is fighting a ferocious second wave of the coronavirus, which many experts believe has been partly fueled by mutations, including the B.1.617 variant. Earlier this week, the World Health Organization had classified it as a “variant of concern”.

Hospitals across the country are struggling with acute shortages of oxygen and other medical supplies. Several states have also flagged an acute a scarcity of vaccine doses.

On Saturday, the country recorded 3,26,098 new coronavirus cases, taking the total count of infections to 2,43,72,907 since the pandemic broke out in January last year. India’s toll rose to 2,66,207 as it registered 3,890 deaths in the last day.

AIIMS chief on black fungus

At a press briefing on Saturday, Guleria noted that cases of mucormycosis, commonly known as black fungus, were rising, adding that it was causing greater morbidity and mortality. The infection has been reported among Covid-19 patients in several states.

The rare infection is caused by a fungus named mucor, which is found on wet surfaces. Symptoms include headache, fever, pain under the eyes, nasal or sinus congestion and partial loss of vision, among others.

Guleria said that one cause for the rise in cases of mucormycosis was the misuse of steroids. He warned against giving steroids to patients with mild symptoms.

The AIIMS chief stressed on the need to follow infection control practices at hospitals in order to prevent Covid-associated mucormycosis.

Earlier on Saturday, Haryana declared black fungus a notified disease to enable tracking and management of any outbreak.