COVID-19-appropriate behaviour during festive season key to prevent 3rd wave: Experts
New Delhi, Sep 17: The festive season and whether or not people adhere to COVID-19-appropriate behaviour during this period will be key deciding factors behind a third wave of the pandemic, experts said on Friday and warned people against lowering their guard.
Also, the emergence of a new variant may become the driving force for a third wave as it would have more chances of transmitting rapidly in super-spreader events like festive gatherings and celebrations, they said.
In the context of rapid immunisation and non-emergence of any new variant of SARC-CoV-2 in recent months, the biggest risk factor for a third wave would be people lowering their guards during the festive season, said Dr. N K Arora, chairman of the COVID-19 working group of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI).
"Social and religious gatherings may facilitate rapid spread of delta virus among those who are still susceptible to infection. Therefore, it is strongly advisable that people religiously follow Covid-appropriate behaviour and the administration takes strict measures to discourage social gatherings," Arora said.
"Currently, there is a declining trend of COVID-19 cases and we are in a pretty good situation. However, the coming few weeks with the festive season ongoing and with that associated changes of decrease in Covid-appropriate behaviour, large gatherings and super-spreading events can be a deciding factor for the third wave," AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria said.
He said the next two-three months are crucial in terms of preventive strategies for the country to continue to be in a good position. Medical epidemiologist and public health expert Chandrakant Lahariya said even though daily new COVID-19 cases are low and stabilised across the majority of Indian states, gatherings -- no matter large or small across the world have resulted in spike in cases.
"Therefore, the next three months the festive season in India is very crucial. If people, especially those who are not fully vaccinated, avoid any gathering or get-together, we have a chance to delay the next wave," he said.
"What would happen starting next year, when a majority of the adult Indian population is vaccinated, is lot much dependent upon evolving scientific understanding about how long immunity last, emergence of a new variant of concern and a few other unknowns. However, by then we would be in the New Year. And my early New Year 2022 wish is that the Indian policy makers use more of science to plan and implement pandemic response strategy," he said.
India may see a third wave of COVID-19 peaking between October and November if a more virulent mutant than the existing ones emerge by September, but its intensity is expected to be much lower than the second wave, a scientist involved in the mathematical modelling of the pandemic had said in August.
Manindra Agrawal, an IIT-Kanpur scientist who is part of the three-member team of experts that has been tasked with predicting any surge in infections, said if no new virulent emerges, then the situation is unlikely to change. If the third wave peaks, the country may see only 1 lakh daily cases as against more than 4 lakh when the deadly second wave was at its peak in May.
The second wave killed thousands and infected several lakh. Dr V K Paul, NITI Aayog Member (Health), said at a press briefing on Thursday that overall there is stabilisation in COVID-19 cases and Kerala has also reported a drop in cases.
"Mizoram is a state of concern but we hope conditions will improve there by fast vaccination and pandemic response and containment. "In the coming two-three months, we need to be cautious that there is no upsurge.... It is also the period of festivities and also when flu cases rise...we request everyone to be careful and retain the gain that we have achieved (in the pandemic management)," he said.
He also requested every state, district, municipality to prepare to tackle the surge by giving home care and make preparation in hospitals and human resources and oxygen requirements.