The “Delta plus” variant of Covid-19 could trigger a third wave of the pandemic in Maharashtra, the state’s health department warned during a meeting on Wednesday, PTI reported.

Officials said that the third wave could hit the state as early as the next two to four weeks if people do not follow Covid-appropriate behaviour, according to The Times of India.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Health Minister Rajesh Tope and members of the state’s Covid-19 force attended the meeting.

The Centre on Tuesday officially acknowledged the emergence of another variant of the coronavirus, called AY.1 or B.1.617.2.1. At a press briefing, VK Paul, chairperson of the National Expert Group on Covid-19 Vaccine Administration, had referred to this new variant as “Delta Plus”.

“Uncontrolled crowds and disregard for Covid norms like wearing of masks and avoiding non-essential movement are worrisome,” an unidentified official said at the meeting. “Even in Mumbai, with certain time restrictions in place, there is free movement throughout the day.”

The state government is cautiously easing restrictions based on a five-level unlock plan, which was unveiled on June 5. Districts were divided into levels based on the positivity rate and occupancy of oxygen beds.

Follow today’s live updates on Covid-19 here.

During the meeting on Wednesday, the Maharashtra health department said there were 19 lakh Covid-19 cases in the first wave, and nearly 40 lakh in the second, according to PTI.

The health department added that the number of active cases in the state could go up to 8 lakh in the third wave and around 10% of the infections could be among children. “The Delta plus variant could stoke a third wave in Maharashtra,” an unidentified official said. “It could spread at double the rate.”

However, Dr Shashank Joshi, a member of Maharashtra’s Covid-19 task force, said children were likely to account for only 3.5% of the total patients in the third wave, according to The Times of India.

Meanwhile, the Maharashtra chief minister said the state could be hit by the third wave before it even recovers from the second if adequate precautions are not followed.

Thackeray instructed officials to ensure the availability of medicines and hospital beds. “We have learned lessons from the first and second waves,” Thackeray said, according to PTI. “We have been told that Maharashtra would get around 42 crore vaccine vials from August-September. The officials need to make all necessary preparations,” he said.

Maharashtra reported 10,107 news coronavirus cases on Wednesday, taking the count of infections to 59,34,880 since the pandemic broke out in January last year. The toll rose by 237 to 1,15,390.