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Second coronavirus wave in India: What is different this time?

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Experts are of the view that a whopping 80-85% of the population, which is asymptomatic, is the largest carrier of the novel coronavirus.

Second COVID-19 wave: India is witnessing a seemingly much bigger and much more dangerous second wave of coronavirus now than what the infection was last year when the first wave struck. This is similar to what had happened during the Spanish flu of 1918-20. This second wave has caused people to be more anxious and worried, but what exactly is it that is different in this wave? According to a report in IE, there are five apparent distinctions. Let’s take a look.

People getting infected despite being careful for a year

Experts are of the view that a whopping 80-85% of the population, which is asymptomatic, is the largest carrier of the novel coronavirus. This is especially true in closed indoor settings where an asymptomatic person can transmit the virus while just talking. These people also do not choose to isolate themselves. This, along with more infectious virus variants in this wave, are continuing to transmit to even those people who are choosing to remain at home.

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The report said that as per the US CDC, the UK strain which has been found significantly during the genome surveillance in Punjab and Delhi, transmits at a 50% higher rate.

Moreover, a less strict marking of containment zones is also a reason for a more aggressive second wave. The city authorities have been asked to mark micro-containment zones, with floors or houses being marked as containment zones, this time around, and effective management of such micro-containment zones is a challenge.

Entire families now contracting COVID-19

In indoor settings, an outbreak of COVID-19 can take place in social gatherings or during house parties if appropriate behaviours are not followed. Entire families have been contracting the virus now because micro-containment zones are not being managed effectively, and more infectious virus variants are present. Moreover, the authorities are not rigorously following contact tracing guidelines, and while all high-risk and direct asymptomatic contacts are required to be tested some time between day 5 and day 10 of coming in contact with the positive person, they can continue to spread the infection in case of false negative reports. Apart from that, this time around there is also a longer waiting period for testing, and while awaiting the reports, asymptomatic people are likely to flout isolation norms, spreading the infection.

More cases of COVID-19 among youth this time

The spread of the infection is rapid among people of all age groups. Currently, very little data regarding the length of immunity among youth is available, but those having comorbidities at a young age are at a higher risk.

As per Centre’s data, the prevalence of death in all age groups up to 70 years is comparable to the rates from last year, while that for people falling in the age groups of 70-80 and above 80 years is increased, meaning that they are more at risk in this second wave and need to be protected. However, while the prevalence rate is the same in age groups up to 70 years, the absolute numbers are higher due to the higher number of cases that are being reported across all age groups this time.

However, it is important that everyone, including the younger population, follows all the COVID-19 guidelines.

The catastrophic situation of oxygen

From the data from hospitals that the government is tracking, it has been found that during the current wave, 54.5% of the people who have been admitted this time needed supplemental oxygen while being treated, a 13.4% increase from the peak seen during September and November 2020. Moreover, among the symptomatic patients, the most common clinical feature was found to be the prevalence of shortness of breath. Oxygen therapy is the primary treatment form in moderate cases in India, and this is the category of people that need oxygen beds. Although the people that currently need oxygen beds is about 10%, the absolute number is still at an all time high considering the fact that the active caseload of the country has crossed 26 lakh.

A whopping 12 states, accounting for 83% of the active cases presently, have reported an 18% increase in demand for medical oxygen within the last one week, the report added.

Breakthrough infections

The vaccines that are currently being administered are not entirely stopping the transmission of the virus, and are only reducing the chances of moderate or severe infection. The ICMR data shows that of every 10,000 vaccinated people, two to four people have tested positive, meaning that even after being vaccinated, people need to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour.

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