Feature: Is India heading to a 3rd wave of Covid-19?

Syed Rizwan Geelani

The daily rise in covid19 cases from J&K particularly Srinagar district hints that it is the right time to exercise caution. No doubt the cases have not yet touched the peak but the fact remains that the number is increasing which has become worrisome for the government and particularly Srinagar district.

The Srinagar district reported 50.9 percent cases in the past eight days till Monday, throwing up a major challenge for the authorities to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

The number of Covid19 cases recorded in J&K during the last eight days (September 13 to 20) is 1165 out of which 593 cases were recorded from Srinagar district alone.

The continuous rise in the cases from the district raises the apprehensions of Srinagar emerging as a virus hotspot in a possible 3rd wave of the pandemic.

If we look at the figures, the number of cases from Budgam has also jumped from single digit to two digits over the past few days.

It has obviously set alarm bells ringing for the administration which is apparent from the repeated appeals of the officials urging people to follow Covid Appropriate Behavior (CAB).

Even the J&K Lieutenant Governor also warned people that if CAB is not followed then the situation may take J&K back to square one.

Several medical experts said that the main reason for the spread of infection this time around is the delta variant coupled with non-adherence to Covid Appropriate Behavior (CAB).

The medical experts believe that the third wave is expected to arrive around October 2021 and will be at peak in November. However the 3rd wave has already hit many European countries and America besides Kerala and some southern states of India as well.

“Kerala is ahead of other states in terms of education and health care facilities as every house has a nurse and a doctor there but despite this the state faced damage due to the 3rd wave of Covid19,” Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Pandurang Kondbarao Pole told Greater Kashmir.

“We cannot ignore the possibility of having 3rd wave in J&K and the continuous rise in the cases is worrisome,” he said.

Whether we consider it as a factor of 3rd wave or not, the fact remains that the cases are increasing and it has its correlation with gathering particularly unsafe gatherings where the majority of people are found without masks.

“Few weeks ago, some areas witnessed huge gatherings without masks and no other protocols were maintained as well. It was against the norms of government and the results of the gatherings are in front of everyone,” divisional commissioner Kashmir said.

The administration has been urging people to wear face masks and ensure proper safety of their families and kids.

“People should not think that being vaccinated they won’t get affected by Covid19. They will be affected but the infection will not be that severe,” Pole said and urged the masses above 18 years of age to get their vaccination done as early as possible.

As per official figures 78 percent population has been administered with the first dose of the vaccine in J&K and the average rate of J&K and particularly Srinagar was more than that of national average. The national average of second dose is only 21 percent while in Srinagar it is 26 percent and of J&K it is 31 percent.

“Those who are taking their vaccine shots are fulfilling their social responsibility,” he said.

Besides following CAB and taking vaccine shots, the question remains whether the government is ready to tackle the situation if the 3rd wave hits J&K.

“Preparation of the government is secondary. But more important is how prepared a common man is. I say it with a heavy heart that a common man is not prepared for it. Even the educated and literate people do not wear masks,” the divisional commissioner said.

Notably while the threat of 3rd wave of the Covid19 is looming large, the government has opened degree colleges for students of all semesters and resumed offline classes for students of class 10th and 12th in schools as well.

“Definitely, if cases continue to keep rising then we will have to rethink it,” he said.

If we are feeling threatened that we are heading towards a third wave it is the right time we must preemptively follow SoPs so that we can fight the effects of the ensuing possible third wave.

“The rise in number of cases is indicative that there could be a 3rd wave but given the vaccination status we may not be having it as severe as second wave,” said Professor and HoD Community Medicine GMC Srinagar, Dr. Muhammad Salim Khan.

Also, the hospital admission is quite low at this time despite a rise in the number of cases.

“We are not sure whether virus strain will remain the same as has been circulating over the past few months. Viruses can mutate anytime. If it becomes more virulent then the 3rd wave could be unpredictable,” he said.

It is a matter of fact that pandemic comes in waves as we have seen the first and second wave of covid19 in the past. The medical experts believe that against the previous waves, the infection spread in the third wave can be prevented by following SoPs.

“Cases are invariably on rise and we may get more cases but as against second wave when we had no protection against the virus through immunization, this time situation is totally different,” said Dr. Muhammad Salim Khan.

Given the availability of vaccines, the severity of 3rd wave will not be similar to that of the second wave despite the rise in the number of cases.

“But if we want to reduce the impact of the 3rd wave we should get vaccinated and try to follow CAB,” he said.

Also there is a need to avoid public gatherings be it social, religious, cultural or any recreational gathering. Any gathering should be curtailed to the level that the disease transmission is reduced.

“It is ultimately the public which gets affected. Administration is there to only facilitate. We must inculcate behavioral change within the community to take up the same measures that we had during the second wave,” Dr. Salim Khan said. — Courtesy Greater Kashmir