Spike in COVID Cases in Maharashtra a Sign of Second Wave?

Maharashtra sees a spike in COVID cases, Mumbai, Pune Nagpur see a rise. What do the experts say?

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COVID-19 in Maharashtra: The state sees a spike in cases post slump.
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Over the weekend, Maharashtra has seen a sharp spike in COVID cases with 4092 new cases being reported since Sunday, 14th February alone, pushing its total tally to 37,146 active cases.

Of these, 645 new positive cases were reported in Mumbai alone, according to the BMC. This is the highest number of cases recorded in Mumbai since 13th January.

40 COVID related deaths were reported in Maharashtra on 14th February, bringing the total number up to 51529, according to the Health Ministry. The fatality rate in the state stands at 2.5%.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Maharashtra has consistently been one of the worst-hit states, but while it seemed like the state might get some respite with the number of cases starting to recede around mid-January, the sudden spike in the last week indicated that the pandemic is far from over.

Number of New COVID Cases in Maharashtra in the Last 10 Days

14th February is the 4th day in a row when Maharashtra has reported 3k+ new cases.

Number of New COVID Cases in Mumbai in the Last 10 Days

The steady rise in cases in Mumbai coincides with the unlocking of the state. Schools and colleges are reopening, and Mumbai locals started plying with time restrictions from 1st February.

About the spike, Minister of Public Health and Family Welfare, Maharashtra, Rajesh Tope said, “ I think that the cases have risen due to various reasons including starting the local trains.”

“Not just in Mumbai city, cases have risen in some other districts as well. The main issue to be addressed is increasing the testing. The state government has given orders to do so. Following those orders and following COVID-19 protocols is important,” he added.

“The question of an urgent lockdown hasn’t risen yet. The graph is stable. The recoveries have risen. But the honourable CM has given orders for strict implementation of protocols, nevertheless, to avoid a further rise.”
Rajesh Tope, Minister of Public Health and Family Welfare Maharashtra 

Pune recorded 621 and 617 new cases on Saturday and Sunday respectively, these being the highest number of covid cases in Pune since 13th January.

Nagpur, too has seen a sharp rise in the number of cases in the last one week, from 258 on Monday, 8th February, to 517 new cases on Saturday, 13th February and 509 on Sunday, 14th February, urging officials to defer the reopening of schools.

But is this spike in numbers a sign of an impending second wave?

FIT talks to Dr Om Shrivastava, Virologist, Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai, and Dr Swapneil Parikh, an internal medicine specialist in Mumbai and author of ‘The Coronavirus: What You Need to Know About the Global Pandemic’, to find out.

Is the Spike a Cause for Concern?

“The cause for concern never went away,” says Dr Swapneil Parikh, an internal medicine specialist in Mumbai and author of ‘The Coronavirus: What You Need to Know About the Global Pandemic’.

“We’ve seen how the tightening and relaxing of restrictions has lead to multiple peaks in other countries already, and this to be expected,” he adds.

According to Dr Parikh, the degree of transmission of a pathogen depends on three main factors: the agent, the host and the environment, and the interaction of the three.

While the new mutating variants of the agent (the virus) is a cause for concern in itself, the changing temperatures as well as our behaviour in response to it have a major role to play in the spread of the infection.

“When the temperature dips, it allows the virus to spread faster. This is also the case when humidity is particularly high or low.”
Dr Swapneil Parikh, Internal Medicine Specialist

According to Dr Om Shrivastava, Virologist, Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai, it is too early to know if these particular numbers are a sign of impending doom.

But at the same time, he adds, “ it is important to be cautious right now and keep a close eye on the numbers and their progression.”

'Keep Your Guards Up'

With the vaccines being rolled out and the number of new cases starting to dip, an air of indifference and laxity, too, seems to have crept in with public spaces opening-up in full swing and little to no safety protocol (masks, social distancing, sanitisation) being followed.

“People getting complacent and letting their guards down is one of the biggest factors leading to the ‘multiple peaks’. When the restrictions are relaxed, people get relaxed and stop following the safety measures, leading to another spike.”
Dr Swapneil Parikh

Dr Shrivastava agrees, saying “while it's too early to say if the numbers are a cause for alarm, we need to keep our guards up now more than ever.”

“Now that things are opening up, this is the time to be extra cautious, especially when it comes to the people you live with and work with.”
Dr Om Shrivastava. Virologist, Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai

“Although there’s isn’t a cause to sound the alarms just yet, we do have to keep the number of people that are in need of hospitalisation down, to ensure the situation doesn't go out of hand,” he added.

It must also be noted that while schools, offices, and commercial establishments are in the process of opening up as we slowly come out of lockdown, India continues to be the second-most-affected globally and ranks 17th among worst-hit nations by active cases.

Although the nationwide inoculation drive that kick-started on 16th January is entering its second phase of booster doses, it is still restricted to the healthcare workers.

So far 82,85,295 beneficiaries have been vaccinated with the first dose across India.

As for the rest of us, the vaccine is still a long way off to do away with all precautions and guidelines.

As much as we’d like to believe we left the pandemic in 2020, the threat of the virus, still, very much looms, and it would be prudent to keep the precautions, social distancing, and masks up if we are to avoid a full-blown devastating second wave.

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