India on tenterhooks over fresh global surge in COVID cases and new variant

India on tenterhooks over fresh global surge in COVID cases and new variant

COVID is rearing its ugly head again in parts of the world, and some regions of India – a fact that has alarmed the central government ahead of the festive season in the country.

Cases have for long been on a low in the populous nation, and most restrictions had been eased, but on Thursday the Centre extended the nationwide containment measures till November 30.

In a communication to chief secretaries of all states and Union Territories, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said that existing protocols for curbing the spread of COVID will continue till November 30.

Another concern is the new mutation of the coronavirus, AY4.2, which has been linked to a rise in cases in the UK, but has so far been “very infrequent” in India, according to a report by India SARS-CoV-2 Genome Consortium (INSACOG), the body that tracks the emergence of new variants.

Several countries have already imposed fresh restrictions ahead of the winter and holiday season. Russia reported record numbers of daily coronavirus cases and deaths while China has locked down a third city to tackle the surge in infections there. Europe too is posting a surge, as well as Singapore which reported 5,324 new COVID cases on Wednesday, the maximum since the start of the pandemic.

In India, it has been pointed out by experts that the festive season may lead to COVID-appropriate behaviour not being followed, thus it was necessary to implement guidelines strictly so that festivities can be held safely.

Data from the health ministry showed that on Friday India recorded 14,348 fresh cases, slightly lower than Thursday. Among the cities posting a slight increase in cases are Faridabad, Gurugram and Vadodara.

Also read: Hanging out with vaccinated people greatly reduces risk of COVID infection – Study

In Gurugram, the health department has issued a stay-at-home advisory for vulnerable people and tightened vigil at crowded places. In Vadodara, cases have been increasing since last weekend.

Among the states, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Karnataka and Maharashtra are showing a small surge. Karnataka has reported cases of the AY.4 variant, and the state government is reportedly considering imposition of fresh restrictions amid fears of a third wave being driven by a new variant.

Maharashtra for the second day in a row recorded 1,485 new cases and 38 deaths, while Bengal has seen a surge in the wake of Durga Puja. Authorities have imposed a lockdown in the state’s Sonarpur in South 24 Parganas district for three days. According to the ICMR, COVID infections have risen by around 25 per cent in Kolkata since Durga Puja.

The Union Health Ministry has written to several states and Union Territories urging them to prioritise administering the second dose to beneficiaries, while health experts have warned of the new Delta plus sub-variant, AY.4.2, which spreads faster than earlier variants.

Also read: India logs lowest active COVID cases in 243 days; AY.4.2 reported in 6 states

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