COVID-19 surging in six states; Omicron dominant in urban areas
The Union Health Ministry on Thursday red-flagged nine urban districts and six states on the basis of their increasing trajectory in weekly COVID-19 case counts and positivity rates. The "sharp increase" in COVID-19 cases in urban districts is likely driven by the Omicron variant, the Ministry said. The states listed by the Centre include Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat, West Bengal, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu.
- India has been witnessing a fresh surge in COVID-19 cases lately. On Friday, India's COVID-19 cases crossed the 15,000-mark after two months.
- Meanwhile, India's tally of Omicron cases has also been rising at an alarming rate.
- It broke the daily record on Friday for the third time in less than a week.
- Currently, India's Omicron tally stands at 1,270.
The six states were red-flagged based on a comparison of weekly cases and positivity rates of the last seven days (December 24-30) with data from the preceding week (December 17-23). Maharashtra reported a 117% increase in cases, with positivity jumping from 0.92% to 2.59%. In Delhi and Gujarat, the cases rose by 290% and 245%, respectively. Delhi's positivity rate jumped from 0.2% to 1%.
Meanwhile, during December 24-30, West Bengal registered 4,442 cases (18.49% rise in cases), Karnataka recorded 2,533 cases (26%), and Tamil Nadu logged 4,383 cases (2.35%), the Union Health Ministry said.
The nine districts red-flagged by the Centre include Mumbai City, Mumbai Suburban, Pune, Thane, Bengaluru Urban, Chennai, Gurugram, Ahmedabad, and Nashik. The Centre listed these districts after comparing their case counts of seven days (December 22-28) with data from the preceding seven (December 15-21). Notably, all these districts have reported a sharp rise in weekly COVID-19 cases, witnessing up to a 232% increase.
Analyzing the data, Dr. VK Paul, the head of India's COVID-19 task force, said, "There is a changing scenario in the pandemic situation." "We are seeing an increase in cases. Several states are showing a trend, which is going up." The reproduction number is 1.22, and cases are "enlarging, not shrinking," he added. However, he maintained the number of deaths is "stable and reassuring."
Dr. Paul also cautioned that any data on Omicron's lesser severity cannot be "taken for granted" as studies are still ongoing. "The severity issues are still unsettled; the WHO statement says severity is, hopefully, mild. But it cannot be taken for granted," he said.
To fight the emerging situation, Dr. Paul said emphasis should be on responsible COVID-19-appropriate behavior, not panic. "Because as a nation we are prepared, we have experience, we have the massive shield of very high coverage of vaccination," he explained. "We must follow the restrictions and rules. All variants enter through the same route, and that route can be blocked by wearing a mask."
When asked if India is witnessing a third wave, Paul said it's an emerging situation. "Where this will take us and where this should be stopped, is all in our hands... It is in our hands, by vaccination, by precaution, and other public health measures."
The Centre will soon come out with "clear-cut recommendations" on the third "precaution" dose, said Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) chief, Balram Bhargava. The Centre is deciding what is the population that will require this third dose, which vaccines can be given, and whether it is going to be the same one or a different one, he added.