Govt says laxity, not new strains, is reason for surge; vaccine pace slow

While Amravati saw a lockdown last month, another was announced on Thursday for the Nagpur Police Commissionerate limits from March 15 to 21.

As India’s active cases continued to rise after touching their lowest point in mid-February — after peaking at 10.2 lakh on September 18 last year — the once-familiar lockdowns are beginning to be seen again. In Maharashtra, which accounted for 55% of the country’s new cases so far in March, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said strict lockdowns would be imposed in some parts of the state. While Amravati saw a lockdown last month, another was announced on Thursday for the Nagpur Police Commissionerate limits from March 15 to 21.

At a daily average of 18,376 last week, the number of new cases is far from the 91,506 peak in the week starting September 7, but keep in mind that daily tests are also down nearly a third. While the positivity rates are much lower at 2.6 right now — versus 8.8 then — what is worrying is they were 2.1 the week before and 1.9 in the week prior to that.

With 2.6 crore vaccination shots carried out in the 53 days since India began its drive, the government contrasted this with the 3.7 crore that the US had done in its first 53 days; the US has done 9.6 crore vaccinations so far. The government’s metric, however, ignores the fact that while India has done 1.86 vaccinations per hundred people so far, the US had done 11.23 in its first 53 days; the US’s current run-rate is 28.6 vaccines per hundred persons, the UK is 35.5, Israel 104.8 and Bangladesh 2.4. The pace of vaccinations has picked up over the past few days, but it still remains too low, particularly as infections are starting to rise again.

Although new strains of Covid-19 have been detected in Amravati, ICMR director general Balram Bhargava said the surge in cases in Maharashtra were not related to the mutant strain. “Reduced number of tracking and testing, as well as covid inappropriate behaviour and large congregation, is responsible for surge in Maharashtra”, he said. The state, on Wednesday evening recorded 13,569 new infections—the highest in five months.

The presentation by the ministry also showed that the number of active infections in the state have nearly tripled in the last month from 36,917 on February 11 to 1,00,240 on March 11.

“It is also indicated that certain suburban trains were responsible, marriage season, all these hypothesis are there,” Bhargava said.

While Maharashtra is certainly a cause of concern, cases have been rising across the country, save a few states. In Punjab, active infections have increased four times, whereas there has been a doubling of infections in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.

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