Just a few short weeks ago, experts and media outlets speculated as to whether a resurgence of COVID-19 was likely to take place in India. These fears were proven more than true as daily case counts have now reached their highest point since the start of the pandemic.
A total of 103,790 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded on Sunday, surpassing the former high point of 97,859 that occurred on September 16th of last year. The situation is a far cry from earlier in the year. In just February, Health Issues India reported on how commentators were querying whether cautious optimism was warranted as case numbers declined and the burden on the country’s health infrastructure was easing. As we noted at the time, India ranked sixteenth in the world in terms of active COVID-19 cases. Now, according to Worldometer, India ranks fifth.
The current peak has escalated far more rapidly than the first wave, rising from a low point in mid-February that had been the culmination of months of reductions. Concerningly, deaths due to the disease are now rising at the same pace as the uptick in cases which we did not observe earlier on in the second wave. Daily deaths due to COVID-19 have increased by 4.5 times, from 96 on March 8th to 425 on April 4th.
The cause of the latest wave of cases can be attributed to a number of factors, according to Dr Randeep Guleria, a key member of India’s pandemic taskforce. “The new variants which is more infectious along with the old one and then the lack of appropriate COVID-19 behaviour of people, that is of not wearing masks, or keeping social distancing and mingling is the cause of this sharp spike,” he said.
The ongoing and extended nature of the pandemic has caused issues across the globe, with many now becoming weary of the lockdowns and restrictions put in place to slow the spread. As Health Issues India reported in early March, at the beginning of India’s rising second wave
“The rise has been attributed to a “lack of fear” of COVID-19, as termed by a three-member team (including Health Ministry Joint Secretary Nipun Vinayak) which visited Maharashtra earlier this month. Others have phrased the issue as “pandemic fatigue” — a problem arising globally due to the prolonged lockdown situation in many countries.”
Government sources at the time noted a number of factors that had contributed to the rising cases, including “COVID-inappropriate behaviour due to lack of fear of disease, pandemic fatigue; miss outs and superspreaders; and enhanced aggregations due to recent gram panchayat elections, marriage season and opening of schools, crowded public transport, etc..”
More than half of the COVID-19 cases in the second wave are located in the state of Maharashtra. Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has made note of the so-called pandemic fatigue, stating “people have become complacent. We are in a catch-22 situation – should we look at the economy or health?…if this condition continues, I have told you already that in fifteen days we will exhaust our [healthcare] infrastructure.”
Maharashtra is now due to implement harsher measures in attempts to bring down cases, including a night-time curfew and a full lockdown on weekends. Should the situation continue to escalate, or become as much of a concern across the country, it is likely that full lockdown measures may be implemented across more states. Given the pace of the increasing infection rates, it may be the case that this outbreak could impact more people than India’s first wave which saw the country rise to the second most-affected worldwide.