India has mounted a considerable effort against COVID-19 — one that has seen official numbers largely plummet. However, as individuals yearn to go back to their daily lives, some have speculated that a “lack of fear” of COVID-19 could lead to a resurgence.
Indeed, in Maharashtra, this may already be the case. According to Union Health Ministry data, there are over 90,000 active cases across the state. Maharashtra reported a daily spike of more than 11,000 cases on Sunday, March 7th. Notably, such a spike has not occurred in nearly five months, with the last instance of more than 11,000 cases occurring on October 16th last year.
The rise has been attributed to a “lack of fear” of COVID-19, as termed by a three-member team (including Health Ministry Joint Secretary Nipun Vinayak) which visited Maharashtra earlier this month. Others have phrased the issue as “pandemic fatigue” — a problem arising globally due to the prolonged lockdown situation in many countries.
“While the exact causes of surge are not known — since laxity in COVID-19 behaviour is not specific to the state — the possible factors are COVID-inappropriate behaviour due to lack of fear of disease, pandemic fatigue; miss outs and superspreaders; and enhanced aggregations due to recent gram panchayat elections, marriage season and opening of schools, crowded public transport, etc.,” according to a report shared by the government.
The report warns that a relaxed attitude towards the situation now could endanger the efforts and progress made against the disease. “Don’t let the guard down. Stay to [the] basics of surveillance, contact tracing and testing. Micro plan and ensure strict compliance of protocols. Strengthen teams to ensure meticulous home quarantine, do focused testing of 100 per cent population in hotspot areas repeated at five days, and isolate positives to check spread,” it said.
There is a concern over variants from other countries causing a second wave to occur in India. As previously noted by Health Issues India, “the new variant first identified in the United Kingdom is thought to be more transmissible than previous strains. As such, there are concerns in India that COVID-19 variants could add to the country’s burden of disease as it pertains to COVID-19 amidst fears over rises in cases in multiple states and union territories.”
India has made clear progress with its vaccination campaigns and efforts to identify outbreaks of COVID-19 wherever they occur. However, since mid-February, active cases have gradually begun to rise. While it is too soon as of yet to establish whether this is indicative of a second wave, the stall in progress against the disease is a cause for concern.