While just last week Health Issues India wrote of India’s progress against COVID-19 flatlining, more recent news would indicate that progress against the disease is now reversing. The developments have sparked fears of a second wave.
In February, India was hitting its lowest case counts since the surge in September of last year that saw daily cases reach nearly 100,000. Progress since then has been overwhelmingly positive, with vaccine rollout playing a role in dropping daily cases to a low point of 11,000 in mid-February.
India reported its biggest daily spike in the cases of COVID-19 this year, with 26,291 infections on March 14th according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare data. For cases to have doubled in just a month is alarming. The rate of increase is reminiscent of the increases seen last year as India gradually rose to take its place as the country with the most rapidly increasing infection rate, before cases fell again in late September.
Localised surges in states such as Maharashtra are likely playing a role in driving the figures higher. “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.
Pandemic fatigue has been a phrase brought up recently describing the issue of individuals who have, in some cases, now been isolated for nearly a year. Many of these individuals, as has been seen across the globe, are now simply ignoring government advice to stay at home and physically distance. As lockdown measures continue, this trend of pandemic fatigue may threaten to undermine progress made in tackling the disease.
India is ramping up COVID-19 vaccination, though continues to face the gargantuan task of rolling out the vaccine to more than a billion people. At the time of writing, India has currently administered 29.74 million doses while 24.31 million people have received at least the first dose. Vaccination coverage that would be enough to declare the potential for herd immunity is not likely to be achieved for a prolonged period, until this occurs there always lies the potential for resurgence. With the constant worry of new strains this eventuality is only further established.