With Omicron BA.2 fueling a massive COVID surge in parts of Europe and Asia, experts are constantly trying to understand whether the variant can cause the 4th COVID wave in India. Meanwhile, Maharashtra, which has remained the worst-affected state during the previous waves, has already been put on alert with the state government urging people to follow COVID protocol.
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Saturday said, We have received a letter from the central government to be on alert as there is a surge in COVID cases across European Countries, South Korea and China. Accordingly, our health department had issued a letter to DCs to be cautious and take necessary steps.”
A day earlier, Dr Pradeep Vyas, additional chief secretary (health) cautioned municipal commissioners and district collectors of another possible surge.
“In the past 24 hours, some countries have recorded highest ever new Covid cases since the beginning of the pandemic two years ago. Some new variant is suspected to be fuelling infections in Israel and other countries,” Vyas wrote to municipal commissioners and district collectors on 17 March.
Vyas said that authorities must ensure that people avoid crowding, follow strict masking and stay alert on influenza like illnesses. He also asked districts to speed up vaccination drives. The government was keeping a close watch on the rise in cases and will take necessary steps if needed, he stated.
Globally, the seven-day average of new cases, which was dropping since January 24 (when it hit an all-time high of 3.45 million new cases a day) bottomed out at 1.48 million cases (or a fall of 57%) a day for the week ending March 2, according to Our World in Data. Since then, this number has been rising for two straight weeks — for the week ended Wednesday, it was 1.75 million cases a day, up 18%.
Can Omicron BA.2 fuel 4th COVID wave in India?
Under such circumstances, several scientists are trying to understand whether Omicron BA.2 can fuel the 4th COVID wave in India. A few weeks back, an IIT Kanpur team had predicted that India is likely to witness the next wave in June and will continue for the next 4 months, while peaking in August. The same research team had previously predicted that the third wave of the pandemic in India would peak by February 3, 2022.
They further clarified that the entire analysis will be deeply impacted by how and when the next variant arrives.
4th COVID can arrive but…: What experts said
Countering the theory, however, other experts said that the model needs to be studied further. NITI Aayog Member (Health) V K Paul said that the IIT Kanpur study is a “valuable input” produced by eminent people. “But, it is yet to be examined whether this particular report has any scientific worth.” The Centre further asserted that ‘it is completely prepared for the unpredictable virus’.
“Only on a single estimate or projection, one is not taking any decision of significance. We value it as an input. Whether it has a scientific worth and mathematical underpinning will be examined,” Paul said.
Meanwhile, virologist Dr. T Jacob John, former ICMR chief, pointed out that he is “fairly confident” that chances of another coronavirus surge is bleak “unless an unexpected variant that behaves differently comes up.” The former ICMR chief also noted that third wave of COVID-19 has ended in India. LiveMint