There is a lack of Covid-appropriate behaviour after the easing of restrictions across India, All India Institute of Medical Sciences Director Dr Randeep Guleria told NDTV on Saturday. Guleria added that with crowds building up, the “inevitable” third wave of infections could hit the country in the next six to eight weeks.
Guleria told the news channel that Indians do not seem to have learnt lessons from what happened in the country during the first and second waves of the pandemic. India is still recovering from the aftermath of the second wave, which at its peak saw more than 4 lakh daily cases, and thousands of death every day. Several states experienced crippling shortages of oxygen, hospital beds, medical supplies and vaccines during the second wave, leading to citizens taking to social media to ask for help.
“Again crowds are building up, people are gathering,” he said. “It will take some time for the number of cases to start rising at the national level. But it could happen within the next six to eight weeks, may be a little longer. “It all depends on how we go ahead in terms of Covid-appropriate behaviour and preventing crowds.”
Guleria added: “We have to factor in human behaviour while unlocking, which needs to be done in a graded manner.”
The AIIMS chief said that districts with a Covid-19 positivity rate of more than 5% should enforce mini-lockdowns. He also emphasised on the need to follow the “test, track and treat” strategy in infection hotspots.
“A new wave can usually take up to three months but it can also take much lesser time, depending on various factors,” he added. “Apart from Covid-appropriate behaviour, we need to ensure strict surveillance.”
Guleria said that Covid-19 will continue to mutate. “During the first wave, the virus was not spreading that rapidly... all that changed during the second wave, and the virus became much more infectious,” he told the news channel. “Now the Delta variant that’s spreading is much more infectious. Faster spread is likely.”
The AIIMS chief said people will be vulnerable to the infection in the next few months unless they are vaccinated. On the controversy surrounding the doubling of the gap between two doses of the Covishield vaccine, Guleria said decisions should be based on science and not shortages.
“Nothing is written in stone,” Guleria said while responding to a question about whether the government should reconsider the gap. “We will have to look at new strategies. But we need to have strong data to take that decision.”
India has been battling a devastating second wave of the pandemic, though the number of daily new cases has reduced now.
India reported 60,753 new cases and 1,647 deaths on Saturday. Its tally of infections went up to 2,98,23,546 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. The toll reached 3,85,137.
On Friday, the Delhi High Court had also warned that the violation of Covid-19 protocols at markets in the Capital will speed up the possible third wave of the pandemic. “We have paid a huge price in the second wave,” the court said. “We don’t know if there is any household which has not suffered in the second wave, closely or remotely.”
On Wednesday, officials in Maharashtra had also warned the government that the “Delta plus” variant of Covid-19 could trigger a third wave of the pandemic in the state.
They expressed concerns that the third wave could hit the state as early as the next two to four weeks if people did not follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.