A third Covid-19 wave is coming, possibly in next 6-8 weeks, AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria has said to NDTV in an interview this morning.
Worryingly, Dr Guleria has stressed that a new Delta-Plus variant of Covid-19 is triggering fresh concerns about monoclonal antibody treatment.
The gap between the new waves is shortening and it’s “worrying”, Dr Guleria said.
“As we have started unlocking, there is again a lack of Covid-appropriate behaviour. We don’t seem to have learnt from what happened between the first and the second wave. Again crowds are building up… people are gathering. It will take some time for the number of cases to start rising at the national level. Third wave is inevitable and it could hit the country within the next six to eight weeks… may be a little longer,” Dr Guleria said. “It all depends on how we go ahead in terms of Covid-appropriate behaviour and preventing crowds,” he added.
“We have to factor in human behaviour while unlocking, which needs to be done in a graded manner,” Dr Guleria stressed.
On the spread of the Delta variant in the United Kingdom, which is now facing a third wave, he said, “Virus is still mutating, we need to be careful”.
“During the first wave (in India), the virus was not spreading that rapidly… all that changed during the second wave, and the virus became much more infectious. Now the Delta variant that’s spreading is much more infectious. Faster spread is likely,” said the AIIMS chief.
In Maharashtra, the NDTV said, experts have warned that at its peak, the third wave of the virus could cause 8 lakh alive cases in the state which currently has around 1.4 lakh patients.
“When there is a huge increase in the number of cases, shortage of (hospital) beds follows. The strategy should be multi-pronged – we have to make sure fresh cases don’t rise. Any healthcare system globally will tend to collapse with the unprecedented rise in the infections,” Dr Guleria stressed.
Dr Guleria also opined that increasing the gap between doses in Covishield “may not be a bad” approach in the challenge to vaccinate the country.
The United Kingdom adopted the one-shot strategy not only for Astrazenaca (which is being used as Covishield in India) but also Pfizer, Dr Guleria pointed out.
“One-shot strategy may not be a bad strategy as it can give protection to larger number of people,” Dr Guleria said.
“That (vaccination) is the main challenge. A new wave can usually take up to three months but it can also take much lesser time, depending on various factors. Apart from Covid-appropriate behaviour, we need to ensure strict surveillance. Last time, we saw a new variant – which came from outside and developed here – led to the huge surge in the number of cases. We know the virus will continue to mutate. Aggressive surveillance in hotspots is required,” the AIIMS chief said.
Dr Guleria further said that vaccination is the main challenge.
“Mini-lockdown in any part of the country, which witnesses a surge and a rise in positivity rate beyond 5 per cent, will be required. Unless we’re vaccinated, we’re vulnerable in the coming months,” he underlined, stressing that “testing, tracking, and treating” should be the focus in hotspots.
On the Delta-plus variant, the AIIMS chief explained: “We need an aggressive genome sequencing to see how the virus is behaving. Does the vaccine efficacy come down, does the monoclonal antibody treatment work? To do all of that, we need to have a large or very good network of labs to study the data. I think that’s where to move in the next few weeks. And that’s the new frontier we need to develop if we want to succeed in our fight against Covid.”
The Centre aims to vaccinate 108 crore people in the country by the end of the year. So far, nearly 5 per cent of the country’s population has been vaccinated.