As the number of confirmed cases of neo-crown in India has slowed since June, the Indian government announced in early July that it was relaxing its outbreak control measures. Experts predict that the mobility of people brought about by the decontrol could lead to a third wave of the new crown epidemic in India by the end of August, but it will be less dangerous than the second wave. However, some experts stressed that the second wave of the epidemic is not well understood in India and it is too hasty to speculate on the impact of the third wave.
The number of new confirmed cases in India in a single day has dropped significantly from the peak level of more than 400,000 cases in May, but the overall situation is still very serious. The number of confirmed cases in India has hovered between 30,000 and 40,000 per day recently, with about 500 new deaths per day, both of which have not shown signs of decline for several weeks. As of the 19th, India has accumulated more than 32.32 million confirmed cases and more than 430,000 cumulative deaths.
At the same time, there are still many weaknesses in India’s epidemic prevention efforts. First of all, in the case of relaxing prevention and control measures and resuming normal social life, many Indian people cannot strictly comply with the epidemic prevention rules. The increase in the number of people going to markets, tourist attractions and other public places and many people refuse to wear masks, creating conditions for the spread of the new coronavirus. Raf Agarwal, a senior official of India’s Ministry of Health, criticized the “revenge trips” and the gathering of people at the briefing on the outbreak last week. He stressed that compliance with epidemic prevention rules should be the norm.
Agarwal also said that the “relatively positive” result of the second wave of the epidemic is that a significant portion of India’s population has developed immunity to the virus. If there is no more contagious variant of the virus in the third wave of the outbreak, the number of confirmed cases is not expected to exceed 70,000 in a single day at the peak.
The fourth round of serum antibody testing for the new coronavirus, released by the Indian Council of Medical Research in July, showed that about 67.6 percent of those tested in the country over the age of 6 were positive, meaning that about two-thirds of India’s population over the age of 6 had antibodies to the new coronavirus. Many experts predict that if the Delta strain remains dominant in transmission and no new mutant viruses emerge, the number of new cases will rise slowly during a possible third wave of the new coronavirus epidemic in India, and will not be as damaging as it was during the second wave.
But Indian economist Mihir Sharma said in a recent media interview that he did not think India was prepared for a possible third wave of the new crown epidemic. The second wave of the epidemic was very devastating, causing a large number of people to become infected, and this population has a degree of immunity to the new crown virus, which may instead lead to overconfidence in some sectors. India still has about 400 million people without antibodies to the new coronavirus, and they also face a higher risk of infection.
Sharma also said that India does not know enough about the second wave of the epidemic, so it is too hasty to speculate on the impact of the third wave of the epidemic. Although government statistics show that India has accumulated less than 500,000 new crown deaths, some estimation models suggest that the country may actually have 2 million to 3 million new crown deaths.
Second, as an important means to curb the spread of the new crown virus, the Indian government is trying to promote vaccination efforts, but with limited success. According to the Indian government website on the 19th, seven months after the launch of the vaccination work, India’s national total of about 566 million doses of vaccine. According to Oxford University’s “World by Data” website, about 437 million people in India have received at least one dose of vaccine as of the 18th, accounting for 31.7% of the total population; 124 million of them have completed the full dose of vaccination, accounting for only 9.02% of the total population.
The Indian government plans to vaccinate all people over the age of 18 with the new crown vaccine this year. Experts say the country will need 10 million doses of vaccine per day to achieve this goal, but so far the peak number of vaccine doses in India in a single day is 8.8 million. Randeep Guleria, director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, warned that the lack of vaccine coverage makes the child population more vulnerable to the new coronavirus compared to adults.
In response to a possible third wave of the outbreak, India’s health ministry last week approved the allocation of more than $971 million in emergency funds to states. The funds will be used mainly to build hospitals, oxygen plants and other medical facilities in rural and urban areas to prevent a recurrence of the oxygen shortage that occurred in the second wave of the epidemic. India’s Ministry of Health said the government has used the medical needs during the peak of the second wave of the outbreak as a baseline for deployment, taking into account the challenges that could be posed by the Delta strain and its derivatives.
According to Sharma, there is an urgent need to upgrade the response capacity of the healthcare system everywhere before another surge of newly crowned cases is possible, otherwise the system will be easily destroyed. He also said the lessons of the second wave of the epidemic were profound, when several countries around the world had provided oxygen and medicines to India, and that no country could have dealt with an out-of-control epidemic alone.