India may be hit by a third wave of the coronavirus disease, which is just as severe as the second one and could last for 98 days, a report released by the State Bank of India showed, reported News18.

In its five-page report published on Tuesday, the SBI pointed out that the deaths could be reduced by improving the healthcare infrastructure and increasing vaccinations. “We find that if serious cases decline from 20% to 5% (due to better health infrastructure and increased vaccination) in the third wave, the number of deaths in the third wave could significantly reduce to 40,000, as compared to the current deaths of more than 0.17 million [1.7 lakh].”

It said that Covid-19 vaccination should be the key priority, especially for children who could be the next vulnerable group, reported the Hindustan Times. “With around 15-17 crore children in the 12-18 age bracket, India should go for an advanced procurement strategy like that adopted by developed nations to inoculate this age-group,” SBI’s Ecowrap report said.

The second wave of the coronavirus has severely affected the country and its healthcare infrastructure. There has been a shortage of medical supplies and equipment such as oxygen, medicines and beds, leading to a high number of fatalities. Social media was filled with desperate pleas of doctors, hospitals and citizens, looking for oxygen and beds. The daily number of cases had even crossed the 4-lakh mark a few times in May. Deaths were reported in thousands but several reports have alleged that the fatalities were underreported. Since the pandemic broke out in the country in January last year, India has recorded 2,83,07,832 infections and 3,35,102 deaths.

The daily cases have declined in the past few weeks but still remain over 1 lakh. The current vaccination drive is progressing at a slow pace amid a scarcity of vaccines. So far, India has administered 21,67,92,843 vaccines doses with 4,39,07,077 getting both the shots. This means that only about 3.1% of India’s population has been fully vaccinated since the immunisation programme began on January 16.

However, the Centre has assured that all citizens will be fully vaccinated by December.

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SBI revises GDP forecast for FY22 to 7.9%

Meanwhile, the SBI’s economic research department has revised its real Gross Domestic Product projection for the financial year 2021-’22 to 7.9% from the earlier 10.4%, reported the Business Line.

The analysis of the research department, in the Ecowrap report, showed a “disproportionate larger impact” of the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic on the economy. “Given that rural is not as resilient as urban, the pick up in pent-up demand is unlikely to make a large difference in FY22 GDP estimates, and hence it could only be a modest pick up,” said Soumya Kanti Ghosh, group chief economic adviser at the bank.

On Monday, government data showed that India’s Gross Domestic Product for the fourth quarter (January to March) grew by 1.6% but the growth rate for the entire financial year of 2020-2021 contracted by 7.3%. This was the worst contraction for a financial year in four decades.

Earlier, economists had expressed concerns about this quarter due to a devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.