Tread cautiously, say experts as Mumbai opens up ahead of predicted third wave | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Tread cautiously, say experts as Mumbai opens up ahead of predicted third wave

ByJyoti Shelar, Mumbai
Aug 11, 2021 12:14 AM IST

With extension in timings for commercial shops, opening of offices, discussions over opening malls and the upcoming festival season, the possibility of accelerating the third wave cannot be denied. While reviving the economy of the financial capital is crucial, experts said the administration should tread cautiously and be prepared to introduce quick micro-containment measures through robust monitoring of cases.

Lockdown relaxations in Mumbai are coinciding with the anticipated third wave predicted to hit the city around mid-August to September. With extension in timings for commercial shops, opening of offices, discussions over opening malls and the upcoming festival season, the possibility of accelerating the third wave cannot be denied. While reviving the economy of the financial capital is crucial, experts said the administration should tread cautiously and be prepared to introduce quick micro-containment measures through robust monitoring of cases.

Beneficiaries wait in a queue to get vaccinated against Covid-19. (HT PHOTO)
Beneficiaries wait in a queue to get vaccinated against Covid-19. (HT PHOTO)

Epidemiologists estimate that there is typically a 100 to 120-day gap between peaks of two waves. In Mumbai, the peak of the second wave was recorded in April. While the peaks have varied in cities and states, most experts predict that India’s third wave may come anytime between August and December.

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“These predictions are subject to assumptions,” said Soumitra Ghosh, associate professor at the Centre for Health Policy, Planning and Management, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). “But we have to be extremely cautious, assess the situation on a daily basis and put all efforts in vaccinating citizens,” he said.

Multiple factors come into play for a surge in any outbreak. These include probability of contact between individuals, number of susceptible people, and infectiousness of the agent among other things.

“Will the lockdown relaxations lead to an increase in the number of cases? The answer is definitely yes,” said Jacob John, professor at the department of community health, Christian Medical College, Vellore. “But will it lead to a wave? This is unlikely, unless a new variant starts spreading rapidly,” he said.

The second wave was predominantly driven by the Delta variant. A mutation of Delta known as AY.1 or Delta Plus is already in circulation. Experts estimate that at least one-third of Mumbai’s population is unexposed to the virus by natural infection or is unvaccinated. This susceptibility is a perfect ground for a surge as well as for new variants to emerge.

“Cities will have to open up at some point in time, but authorities have to be very sensible about the process. A lot of thought has to go into what kind of activities need to open up so that the marginal population does not suffer more. Also, the risk has to be balanced with immunisation,” said John.

Nearly 9 million people aged above 18 years are eligible for vaccination in Mumbai. The city has administered over 7.6 million doses, but only about 1.9 million people or 21% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated so far.

Epidemiologist and health systems expert Dr Chandrakant Lahariya said it is important for activities to resume, but in a calibrated manner. “If malls open up, there can be a limit on the number of people who are allowed inside at a given point of time. If people in certain market areas or shops are flouting Covid-19 norms or masking and distancing, they should be locked down. Cities will have to adopt a dynamic, granular approach towards containment and lockdown measures,” said Lahariya.

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