Hyderabad: The gradual rise of fresh Covid infections across many States and the steady increase of Covid effective reproductive number (R), which according to some mathematical models has already crossed 1.01, could be an indication of the early stages of a third wave.
As more and more States eased lockdown restrictions, there has been an uptick in new Covid cases. With daily new cases in Kerala hovering around 20,000, there is a fear among health officials here that a cascading effect in neighbouring States has the potential to trigger a fresh surge and eventually a Covid third wave.
The SUTRA model of researchers from IIT Kanpur and IIT Hyderabad, who had got their earlier mathematical projections on Covid-19 right during the first and second wave, have already indicated that this gradual rise in Covid infections could be the start of the third wave.
A few days ago, the Head of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Dr Samiran Panda also had forecasted that the Covid third wave could hit the entire country as early as August. However, Manindra Agrawal from IIT Kanpur, the co-developer of SUTRA model, had made it clear that the rise in Covid infections during a third wave could be a small ‘ripple’ and not as severe as the second wave.
The IIT researchers in their models have clearly defined the conditions under which a third wave could possibly be more severe than the earlier two waves. If there is a faster spreading mutant of SARS-CoV-2 that can escape vaccination and natural immunity gained by the general population, then a third wave has the potential to be far more severe than the first two Covid waves in India.
However, so far there has been no evidence that a new and far superior variant when compared to Delta, has emerged in the country. Based on the SUTRA mathematical projections, the third wave across the country gradually starts in August, continues to rise in September and October and peaks in November before the surge of infections dip in November-end.
“A faster-spreading mutant has a bigger impact but it could be nowhere close to the second wave. The bottom line, however, is that if there is no significantly faster spreading mutant, the third wave will be a ripple. And if there is such a mutant, the third wave will be comparable to first one,” Dr Agrawal said.
The SUTRA model has also forecasted that by the middle of August, Covid infections in Kerala will peak to 25,000 infections per day. “The cascading impact of this rise in Covid infections could be felt in Karnataka, Telangana and even Tamil Nadu,” senior health officials here fear.
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