The increasing Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra and other states show that we are far away from attaining herd immunity level.
As per reports, the sudden fall in coronavirus cases in India for almost five months, even in these states that are now showing a resurgence, had led to the belief that the infection levels in India had probably already reached a level where the effects of herd immunity had started to play out. Researches have not been able to come up with a valid explanation to account for the sustained decline in numbers for a prolonged period.
The testing rate had not dropped significantly – Lockdown restrictions had been eased, elections had seen people coming out in large numbers, festivals, during the farmers’ protest forced people to gather, and the adherence to norms of physical distancing or adoption of masks was not very high.
Technically, no particular point of infection level in the community has been identified after which the effects of herd immunity start to kick in. The reports suggest that at least 40 to 50 per cent of the population group got infected, but there is a slowdown in the further spread of the virus, mainly because the number of uninfected people, who can potentially get infected, is considerably less than earlier.
A recent serosurvey in the national capital had found that at least in some areas of Delhi, the infection rate could have gone beyond 50 per cent. In September, similar results had been obtained for some pockets in Pune as well. However, there is no nationwide survey that shows comparable numbers for large parts of the country.
Given the situation in Maharashtra where Covid-19 cases are increasing at a rapid speed could be a large proportion of the population is uninfected, and thus vulnerable to getting infected. By the first week of February, the numbers in Maharashtra had fallen below 2,500 a day, before beginning to rise again. For the last three days, Maharashtra has reported more than 6,000 cases. After November, such high numbers were seen on Sunday – It was close to 7,000.
The obvious cause for the surge seen in Punjab can be a result of the farmers’ protests, where no one was wearing masks or following physical distancing. Though it is not at all clear why this rise in cases did not happen in November, December or January. Just like Maharashtra, the cases in Punjab are not very high, less than 400 a day right now, but by the middle of January, the state had started to report well below 200 cases a day. As in Maharashtra, the rise in cases in Punjab has not been as sudden or steep.
Madhya Pradesh also saw a rise in Covid-19 cases, but the rising trend has been holding on for more than a week now.
The constant decline in cases across India since October had slowly resulted in a drop in testing numbers as well. The average number of samples tested every day across the country has steadily fallen to a level well below seven lakh, compared to more than 10 lakh tests that were being conducted till the end of December. A similar decline was seen in Maharashtra as well.
The rise of cases in Maharashtra has thankfully coincided with a decline in Kerala. The southern state had been reporting more than 5,000 cases for well over a month, but there is a noticeable, and steady, decline in the last week. On Sunday, Kerala reported 4,070 new cases.
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