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With the steady rise in the daily new COVID-19 positive cases in the country, the government has advised caution and continued alertness to its citizens. India recorded over one lakh fresh cases of COVID-19 in the week ending Sunday, the highest weekly count in more than four months. With active cases topping 1.1 lakh, deaths from the COVID-19 virus surged to at least 192 during the week (June 27-July 3), a rise of 54 percent as compared to 125 in the previous seven days.

This was the sixth straight week of rising cases in the country and the first time since mid-February this year that the weekly tally exceeded the one-lakh mark. A sustained and significant decline in the number of COVID-19 cases was observed in India over March, April, and May 2022. The uptick in the cases started being noticed thereafter, with a significant jump in infections being reported in the week ending May 27. The surge coincides with a general sense of relaxed COVID appropriate behaviour among people at large and less stringent restrictions imposed by the authorities.   However, the surge appears to be slowing down over the past week as the rise in previous weeks was sharper in comparison. Last week, the case count had seen a spike of 23 percent while the increase was 63 percent and 91 percent, respectively, in the two preceding weeks.

The surge seems to be shifting to other states, as compared to three weeks back when cases were rising in Maharashtra, Delhi-NCR, Haryana, and Kerala which have seen a dip recently. Instead, the surge is now being witnessed in Bengal and Orissa. Fresh cases more than tripled in a week in Bengal and Odisha. Bengal logged 9,513 cases in the week ending July 3, the fourth highest in the country and up from 3,055 in the preceding seven days while Odisha’s numbers grew from 408 to 1279. 

Kerala recorded a big jump in fresh COVID-19 deaths, with the weekly toll jumping to 85 from 45 in the previous week. Maharashtra too continues to see an alarming rise in daily positive cases. The state reported 3,098 fresh COVID cases on July 5, up from 1,515 the previous day. With the new infections, the state witnessed a 104 per cent jump in cases than Monday, while the fatality count too doubled from three to six.

The surge in India comes at a time when several countries are seeing an uptick in the caseload, after weeks of normalcy. Several countries around the world are facing a surge in COVID cases, including the US, the UK, Italy, and China. With the number of cases and hospitalization rates rising, many countries are weighing the return of COVID-19 control measures such as mask mandates and social distancing.

In view of a surge in COVID-19 cases and the rise in the weekly positivity rate, the Government of India has advised caution and continuous alertness to states reporting a surge in COVID cases during the past few weeks, and to step up vigil against the virus. Fourteen states are currently reporting high number of cases on a week-to-week basis along with increased case positivity.  In a letter to Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Telangana, Karnataka and Maharashtra sent last month, the central government highlighted that a few states were reporting a higher contribution to India’s caseload, indicating the possibility of a localised spread of the infection. This necessitates a risk assessment-based approach on the public health responses.

The government has advised states that have been reporting spike in COVID-19 cases to be watchful of the emerging pandemic situation. The focus should be on strengthening proactive surveillance as per the Revised Surveillance Strategy issued by Union Health Ministry on June 9 this year. The four-fold strategy highlights surveillance of incoming international travellers; community-based surveillance; sentinel site surveillance (health facility-based surveillance and lab-based surveillance); and whole genome sequencing.

States were also strongly advised to strictly monitor epidemiological profile of admitted COVID-19 patients and report the clinical manifestation to Health Ministry, rather than a random or anecdotal reporting.

Meanwhile India’s COVID-19 vaccination coverage is slowly inching towards the 200 crore mark. It exceeded 198.20 Cr as  on July 6. COVID-19 vaccination for the age group 12-14 years was started on 16 March, 2022. So far, more than 3.70 Cr adolescents have been administered with the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Similarly, the COVID-19 precaution dose administration for age group 18-59 years also started from 10th April, 2022 onwards. About 4.57 crore precautionary doses have been administered so far.

Noting that the uptake in second and precaution doses in many states reporting the present surge was low, these states have been advised to rapidly accelerate the vaccination coverage especially of the 60+ elderly population, and second dose among 12-17 population group.

The current low levels of COVID-19 testing across the states, and the drop in RTPCR share are a cause of worry and a rise in cases means that the government must focus on increasing the uptake of testing. Instead of a thin and wide testing spectrum, states have been advised to focus on strategic testing of patients coming to fever clinics along with new clusters and geographies in all districts reporting higher positivity. Till the time we tide over the current surge, the state machinery and people must focus on the implementation of COVID appropriate bheaviour to control the spread of infection, especially in view of the forthcoming festivals in many states.

References:

https://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/coronavirus-india-live-news-updates-omicron-covid-cases-today-8009240/

https://www.firstpost.com/world/not-just-india-covid-19-cases-are-rising-globally-a-look-at-countries-seeing-a-spike-10792431.html

https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/industry/india-logs-1-lakh-weekly-covid-cases-highest-in-4-months-deaths-up-50/92640935?utm_source=Mailer&utm_medium=ET_batch&utm_campaign=ethealth_news_2022-07-04&dt=2022-07-04&em=c3R1dGkuc2h1a2xhQGFjY2Vzc2gub3Jn

https://www.india.com/maharashtra/maharashtra-covid-fourth-wave-latest-update-5-july-2022-state-witnesses-104-spike-in-covid-cases-high-cases-in-mumbai-pune-nashik-nagpur-akola-aurangabad-kolhapur-latur-5495711/

https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1839455

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/europe/with-hospitalizations-up-france-weighs-return-to-masks/articleshow/92621013.cms

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