Roundup: COVID-19 cases resurge in India amid lifting of restrictions

NEW DELHI, April 26– 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 devastating second wave that ravaged the country around this time last year, India…

by Peerzada Arshad Hamid

NEW DELHI, April 26 (Xinhua) — 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 devastating second wave that ravaged the country around this time last year, India has for a few weeks early this month 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.

COVID-19 cases rose again in India at a time when a fresh surge in COVID-19 cases is being seen in many countries around the world.

On Jan. 20, daily cases surged to 347,254. Cases quickly nosedived thereafter.

From March 19 this year, daily COVID-19 cases began to drop below 2,000. 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, just weeks after falling to the lowest in nearly two years.

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 500 rupee (6.53 U.S. dollars). 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 as the delta variant ripped through the populous nation, the World Health Organization has warned of emergence of new variants, calling for maintaining vigilance.

Officials say India was also putting in place other measures to prevent another wave of the pandemic.

The federal health ministry wrote a letter to some states, asking them to continue with the five-fold strategy, which includes testing, tracking, treatment, vaccination and adherence to COVID-19 appropriate behavior.

CHILDREN FALLING SICK

Ever since schools were reopened almost after two years’ gap, a huge number of school children across India have fallen ill and are frequently suffering from cold, fever, cough and body aches. 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.

According to parents across locations, the school-going children pass on the infection to smaller children at home and even sometimes to the adults after they show various symptoms like cough, cold, running nose and fever.

Doctors say the COVID-19 pandemic had a wide-ranging impact on children’s health and staying at home for two years has taken a toll on their immunity.

They said 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 when children were at home, their bodies did not get an opportunity to go through this process at a natural pace, Ahmad said. “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

According to data released by the federal health ministry on Tuesday, 1,399 COVID-19 deaths were recorded during the past 24 hours.

Official data showed that over half a million deaths have taken place in the country due to COVID-19.

Health experts say that in view of the spike in many countries, there is definitely a scare of the fourth wave coming to India. The experts base their assertions on the rise of cases in Delhi and other states.

Experts say that new variants are emerging of the Omicron and they are being sequenced.

“Yes, a fourth wave might come,” said Anitha Ramesh, a medical oncologist. “It is quite natural with the viral history, it might come.”

“Last Omicron peak was smaller and not everyone was tested,” Ramesh said. “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.” Enditem

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