India’s big cities could see COVID cases peak next week: Experts | Coronavirus pandemic News

Experts say new COVID-19 infections in Indian cities such as the capital, New Delhi and Mumbai may peak next week after rising rapidly, as the country reported the largest number of daily cases since late May.

The 247,417 new infections on Thursday were more than 30 times higher than the daily cases they were a month ago, and rose as the more transmissible alternative Omicron replaced deltas across the country. Infections totaled 36.32 million, behind only the United States.

said Gautam Menon, a professor of physics and biology at Ashoka University near the capital.

A health worker collects a swab sample from a woman during a rapid antigen testing campaign for coronavirus disease at a railway station in Mumbai [Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters]

Mumbai recorded a high of 20,971 infections last Friday, but cases have since fallen. City officials said the infection rate is also dropping, with nearly 80 percent of COVID-19 hospital beds vacant.

Delhi reported more than 27,500 infections on Wednesday, close to an all-time high, and the health minister told local media this week that infections could start declining in a few days.

Federal and state health officials say the majority of infections in the current third wave have been mild, with fewer hospitalizations and deaths than the previous surge in April and May that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

The Ministry of Health said that common pain relievers such as paracetamol should be sufficient for people with a mild fever due to COVID-19. However, she cautioned against indolence as infections are now beginning to rise in up to 300 districts from less than 80 a week ago.

“Experience from other countries teaches us that it is more practical to track/monitor hospitalizations rather than new cases,” said Rajib Dasgupta, head of the Center for Social Medicine and Community Health at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

“Non-pharmaceutical interventions – lockdowns, etc – are increasingly losing relevance to rapid and unforgiving societal transmission.”

A healthcare worker collects a COVID-19 test swab sample from a man in Delhi, IndiaA healthcare worker collects a swab sample from a man while others wait in a market area in the old quarters of Delhi [Adnan Abidi/Reuters]

However, many cities and states, including Delhi, have imposed a nightly curfew. The capital also shuts down completely on weekends, and private offices, schools and restaurants are closed all week.

India’s latest spike in infections comes ahead of elections in five states, including Uttar Pradesh, home to 220 million people, which begins on February 10.

Political parties have organized massive rallies involving tens of thousands of people over the past few weeks.

Superspreader Concerns in the Retreat of Holy Mass

A surge in the virus last year killed more than 200,000 people – experts say the actual number may be much higher – and was partly blamed on huge political rallies and religious events.

West Bengal is holding a huge Hindu religious fair this week on an island in the Ganges, while Tamil Nadu has allowed bull-racing festivals next week.

Hindu pilgrims arrive at the confluence of the Ganges and the Bay of BengalHindu pilgrims arrive at the confluence of the Ganges and the Bay of Bengal, before the Makar Sankranti festival, in the eastern state of West Bengal [Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters]

Officials said they expected up to three million people, including ash-stained and terrifying ascetics, to take a dip in the sacred river on Friday, the culmination of the annual Gangasagar Mela festival.

The state government on Thursday appealed to people to get tested for COVID-19, with Prime Minister Mamata Banerjee urging devotees to wear two masks and not to “spit on the island, because it is spreading the virus”.

Amitava Nandy, a virologist from the School of Tropical Medicines in Kolkata, said the government “has neither the facilities nor the manpower” to test everyone who attends or to enforce social distancing standards.

“A stampede-like situation could happen if the police tried to enforce social distancing on the riverbank,” Nandi said, adding that the festival “could end up becoming the biggest spread of the virus.”

Man dressed as Hindu Lord ShivaA man dressed as the Hindu deity, Lord Shiva, walks to receive alms from pilgrims at the confluence of the Ganges and the Bay of Bengal in West Bengal [Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters]

India has given two doses of the basic vaccine to nearly 70 percent of its adult population of 939 million, but many of them remain unvaccinated. This has alarmed officials, especially since five states are holding regional elections.

The country reported 380 COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, more than 46 percent of them in the southern state of Kerala that had not been recorded before. The death toll has reached 48,035, behind the death tolls in the United States and Brazil.

Meanwhile, the Indian Council of Medical Research, the government’s top scientific body, amended mandatory testing guidelines on Monday to ease pressure on testing infrastructure. Asymptomatic health contact of confirmed coronavirus patients no longer requires mandatory testing.


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