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Over the past 24 hours, 1,399 COVID-19 related deaths were recorded. There is a scare of the fourth wave coming to India.
After local governments across India lifted all the pandemic related restrictions and even dropped the mandatory wearing of face masks, the country is once again witnessing an increase in the daily number of COVID-19 infections.
For the first time since the second wave that ravaged the country around this time last year, India has for a few weeks recorded daily COVID-19 infections below 1,000 cases a day. But there is an uptick again at a time when markets have been reopened, businesses returned to normalcy, and travel activities resumed to the pre-pandemic levels. Schools and colleges have been open for in-person classes and there is no bar to gatherings.
On April 3, the daily caseload went below 1,000 cases and it hovered around the mark until April 16. However, from April 17, an uptick was witnessed, the daily caseload breached the 2,000 mark again and since then the cases have been increasing. On Tuesday, 2,483 new cases were recorded during a 24-hour time span.
MANDATORY FACE MASK RULE RETURNS
Experts say the spike in cases has been attributed to the reopening of schools, increased social activities, gatherings and relaxed rules amid low COVID-19 numbers. Amid concerns about rising daily COVID-19 cases, many states have reinstated the mandatory face mask rule in public places to counter the spread of infections and even warned to penalize violators.
The local government in New Delhi last week made wearing face masks mandatory in public places and brought in a rule to penalize violators with a fine of US$6.53. The order has been reimposed in the city within three weeks of its withdrawal. And some states followed suit.
While there are no immediate signs of India's health care system getting overwhelmed like it did last year when daily cases topped 400,000, the World Health Organization has warned of emergence of new variants, calling for maintaining vigilance.
Ever since schools were reopened almost after two years' gap, a huge number of school children across India have fallen ill. Doctors say children, mostly younger ones or those with pre-existing health conditions, are complaining of cough, allergies, viral infection, water-borne diseases, respiratory tract infections and gastrointestinal infections.
The pandemic had a wide-ranging impact on children's health and staying at home for two years has taken a toll on their immunity. Young children develop immunity to various viruses and bacteria by regular exposure to a small inoculum of these microorganisms from their school and playmates during their close and prolonged interactions.
"Because of this exposure children either develop the disease or subclinical infection. This in turn leads to the formation of antibodies and cellular immunity. Both of these protect them from subsequent infections and disease," said Nisar Ahmad, a health officer.
During the lockdown period, children did not get an opportunity to go through this process at a natural pace. "So when schools were reopened, immune systems of children were suddenly bombarded by these infections and they fell ill very frequently."
COVID-19 DEATH COUNT
On Tuesday, 1,399 COVID-19 deaths were recorded during the past 24 hours. There is definitely a scare of the fourth wave coming to India. Experts say that new variants are emerging of the Omicron and they are being sequenced.
"Yes, a fourth wave might come. It is quite natural with the viral history, it might come. Last Omicron peak was smaller and not everyone was tested," said Anitha Ramesh, an oncologist.
"We didn't know how fast it went, how high it went, and how fast it came down. The XE variant is more transmissible than the Delta variant, but regarding the virulence of how bad it is, we don't have the data."