India sees over 2 lakh Covid infections for the first time since the pandemic began more than a year ago. Crematoriums and burial grounds are overflowing with bodies. And hospital systems are collapsing.
On his show News Today at 9, India Today TV Consulting Editor Rajdeep Sardesai spoke to top virologist Dr. Gagandeep Kang to know how long the second wave may last. Excerpts from the interview:
Q: Will it get much worse before it gets better?
We should watch out for the test positivity rate, which will be the first to show a decline, and after that, we will begin to see a decrease in hospitalisations and deaths.
Q: How do you see the trajectory and spread over the next 4-6 weeks?
If we look at the pattern of waves in different parts of the world, the whole cycle of a wave lasts around 12 weeks. It's the pace of climb that counts and then the decline that matters. When you have overlapping 12 weeks, the pattern can vary from a sharp upward swing to a sharp drop from different locations.
Some of the places that led in the past are leading again. Maharashtra is an example, and Delhi is beginning to climb now. We will have to monitor these trajectories to see how the pandemic declines in specific locations. Certain areas have just started to climb now. And, for them, the climb and deceleration will be for a more extended period than it's for, say, Maharashtra.
Q: Are these new variants immune to vaccines?
The effect of a vaccine kicks in about three weeks after you receive the first dose. If people get infected and sick after the first dose, it's likely happening in the first three weeks. Vaccines are not supposed to prevent infections. Vaccines are considered to prevent severe disease and death. Infections after the first dose are not unusual. Do the vaccines work against the new variants? Lab data that's come mainly from western countries shows that the immune response seems to be somewhat less effective against the new variants, but clinical data shows otherwise.
Q: Are you surprised by a lot of young people, many under 40, getting infected? What does that suggest? Should that be a cause for worry?
This has been reported mainly anecdotally. I would like to know their socio-economic condition.
Q: What are the solutions? Are weekend lockdowns a solution?
Solutions haven't changed, except for the addition of vaccines. Solutions remain masking, social distancing, prevention of crowding, and hand washing. We need to push vaccination as fast as people. We're not looking at the quality of masks at all. Many of them are of no use against the virus. Also, double masking will work in certain situations.
Q: Organisers of Kumbh Mela and political rallies say the virus is not as dangerous in open spaces. What do you have to say?
Ventilation and air movement matter. But remember, the virus spreads mainly through respiratory tracts, and it's a question of exposure. Whether indoors or outdoors, if somebody is breathing out, shouting, singing very close to you, then the number of viral particles you will acquire can be infectious. So, open spaces are no insurance. It's the question of distance and air movement.