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Is Covid wave 2 over? Positivity rate below 5% for 15 days, but experts say the end is still far away | India News


NEW DELHI: India has crossed the important milestone of a Covid positivity rate of less than 5% for 15 consecutive days, in line with the WHO recommended requirement for a region to reopen, but experts are wary of declaring terminated the devastating second wave.
With 42,640 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, the lowest in 91 days, and a positivity rate of 3.21%, it would appear that the current phase of the Covid-19 crisis is over and it is a good time to lift restrictions. .
However, this optimistic picture must be bordered with great caution, several scientists said, citing the emergence of new variants, the absolute number of cases still high, the many districts where the positivity rate remains above 5% and concerns about the data reliability.
“With the current positivity rate of less than 5%, India’s second wave of Covid-19 is waning as fast as it peaked, but the end may still be a long way off as new, more transmissible variants like Delta plus variants are emerging, ”said Naga Suresh Veerapu, Associate Professor, Faculty of Natural Sciences (SoNS), Shiv Nadar University, Delhi NCR.
The Delta plus variant has been formed due to a mutation in the Delta variant or B.1.617.2, first identified in India and considered one of the drivers of the second wave in the country and also in several others, including the Kingdom. United.
The test positivity rate or TPR, the percentage of all coronavirus tests performed that turn out to be positive, is an important metric through which the public health system monitors the level of Covid transmission.
WHO recommends that test positivity be kept at 5% or less for 14 days before countries or regions reopen.
In February this year, the country was celebrating the end of the first wave and conveniently ignored an impending second wave, Veerapu said.
“The Delta variant that emerged in March spread to different parts of India, then the cases rose to the peak producing a second wave. The second wave joined the first when the latter had a 1 percent positivity rate, ”he told PTI.
Public policy expert Chandrakant Lahariya added that while cases are declining, the absolute number of cases remains very high.
“While the positivity rate of tests nationwide has decreased, there are still many districts where the TPR is above 5%,” the Delhi-based physician, epidemiologist and health systems expert told PTI.
“So before I say that the second wave is over, I’d like to wait for TPR to drop below 5% everywhere and hold for two weeks or more,” he said.
Scientist Gautam Menon agreed with Lahariya, noting that some states, such as Kerala, continue to have positivity rates above 5%. It added that it is unclear if this simply reflects better evidence than other states or if the situation still needs to improve there.
The positivity rate was 10.84% ​​in Kerala on Sunday.
According to data from the Ministry of Health on Monday, the total Covid-19 case count in India is (2.99 crore / 29.9 million), while active cases dropped to 7, 02.887. On Tuesday, the numbers improved further with active cases falling below 7 lakh after 79 days. The death toll rose to 3.89,302 with 1,167 daily deaths, the lowest in 68 days.
The second wave of the pandemic overwhelmed the country’s healthcare system, leaving hospitals scrambling to cope with rising cases and shortages of critical drugs and oxygen. Infections have now slowed and restrictions have been relaxed in most states.
Agreeing that the decline in cases in India has been quite dramatic, Menon noted: “As far as we know, this is a genuine decline, in both urban and rural India.”
“There is no strict definition of a ‘wave’, let alone how and when it might end, but this is a good time like any other to consider opening, albeit with caution,” Menon, professor, Departments of Physics and Biology , From Ashoka University in Haryana, told PTI.
Experts also believe that test positivity rates provide valuable information only if the tests are widely accessible in all regions.
“The positivity of the tests, when these tests are carried out on a random sample of the population and in sufficient quantity, is probably the best metric to dictate the opening, although we must be careful with local foci where the level of infections has been lower average and where the disease could still take off, ”Menon said.
“What we have to remember is that for a country the size of India, we have to have enough attention locally,” Lahariya added.
He explained that Covid-19 is not just any respiratory disease and the decision-making parameters cannot be simple.
“We know that there are new variants that are more transmissible. We know that human behavior determines the spread of this virus. Therefore, it is not very relevant if we declare whether the second wave is over or not, “explained the public policy expert.
“The key is, are we prepared to respond to the increase in cases? That’s where the focus should be, ”Lahariya said.
Widespread concerns about the accuracy of the data, related to both deaths and cases, must also be taken into account, Menon said.
Although anecdotally, the decline in cases appears to be true, the media and other reports “suggest that deaths have been counted well below expectations, sometimes by a factor of 10”.
“I hope these reports encourage states to be transparent with their numbers,” he said.
Lahariya said that India has suboptimal performance mechanisms for medical certification of causes of death (MCCD). Even before the pandemic, causes of death used to be certified in only a quarter of recorded deaths.
“Therefore, it is not unthinkable that even in some cases of deaths from Covid-19; the deaths have not been correctly certified ”, added the scientist.
Veerapu said that asymptomatic people and some with mild symptoms may not even show up for tests, leading to underestimating cases.
However, he said the second waning wave provides enough opportunities to minimize the spread of the disease.
“We must accelerate the vaccination campaign, consolidate the health infrastructure to minimize the impact of the long-awaited third wave and improve public health strategies to prevent, control and respond to the third wave,” he added.

Times of India