No clarity on timeline of third wave amid concern, says AIIMS chief

‘COVID-appropriate behaviour and surveillance are two ways to check the spread of virus,’ Dr Randeep Guleria says

AIIMS health worker Manish Kumar, the first person in India to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. About 6 per cent of India’s population has received inoculation, as per the latest figures | ANI/Twitter

A third COVID wave can be delayed and its effects less severe if people continue taking pandemic-appropriate measures and authorities step up the pace of vaccination, a leading medical authority in India has said.

“COVID-appropriate behaviour and surveillance is two ways to check the spread of virus,” AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria told NDTV on Saturday.

There is no clarity on the timeline of the third wave, he said. “We will see an increase in the number of cases in near future. What is, however, important is how we behave. If people follow COVID-appropriate behaviour and as more and more people are vaccinated, the third wave could be delayed. It could also have lesser impact than the second or first wave.”

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The Indian Council for Medical Research’s (ICMR) fourth sero survey has revealed that two out of three Indians (or 67.6 per cent of the population aged above six years) have developed SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. Though the survey offers a ray of hope, it says that at least 40 crore people are still unprotected against the virus.

Dr Guleria said vaccine hesitancy is still an ongoing problem in India. “It’s not just about the number of doses available, but also if more and more people are stepping out to get inoculated. Vaccines are believed to prevent deaths and hospitalisations and severe illness. If you get vaccine, you will be protected to an extent. This has been seen in the US and the UK. Despite that, we need to stick to COVID-appropriate behaviour because mutations will keep happening,” he said.

About 6 per cent of India’s population has received vaccination, as per the latest figures. Asked if the government can achieve its goal of vaccinating all adults by the end of this year, the AIIMS chief said the country should be able to inoculate 60 per cent of the population by the end of 2021.

The ICMR recently told the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) that the timing of a possible third wave “remains uncertain” and outside the scope of mathematical modelling.

Having said that, a third wave will not be as severe as the second if no new infectious strain of the virus emerges, or COVID norms are not violated indiscriminately, Dr Samiran Panda, ICMR’s head of epidemiology and communicable diseases, said in a presentation.

According to The Indian Express, Dr Panda made the presentation in a July 9 meeting attended by Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Dr Guleria and NITI Aayog member VK Paul, among others.

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