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Fresh surge takes active Covid cases past 345,000

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A total of 47,005 new infections of Covid-19 were reported across India on Sunday, the highest single-day increase in cases since November 11 last year, pushing the number of active cases in the country close to the 350,000 mark, as the second wave of the outbreak continued to expand its footprint.

In just the last five days, more than 200,000 new Covid-19 infections have been reported across the country and as many active cases have been added in the last 30 days, according to HT’s Covid-19 dashboard.

As of Sunday night, there are 345,122 active cases in the country. The number of active cases in India crossed the million mark in the middle of September, when the first wave peaked, but it was dropping rapidly since. This receding trend, however, reversed a month ago with the start of the new wave of infections, according to data.

Sunday’s 47,005 new cases came despite the fact that new case numbers generally drop on weekends on account of low testing. Of these, a record 30,535 cases came from Maharashtra – the third time in four days that the state set a new all-time record for single-day cases.

There were 823 new cases in Delhi, the most number of daily cases in the Capital since December 14, as the positivity rate in the city remained above 1% for the second day in a row.

Another 2,644 new cases were reported in Punjab, 1,715 new infections in Karnataka and 1,580 in Gujarat – all single-day record high in at least four months.

A total of 204 people lost their lives to the viral disease on Sunday, taking the total number of deaths to 160,024.

Tracking active cases is crucial because it reflects the actual spread of a virus in a region, as well as the load the country’s health care system is currently bearing. A higher caseload means that the virus has more hosts in a region, and thus has a higher chance of spreading to more people. Experts warned that this dangerous trend of rising active cases is unlikely to subside unless people across the country drop the laxity in Covid-19-appropriate behaviour that has developed due to low cases over the past few months.

New infections have been rising the past month across India, marking the start of what is clearly the second wave of infections.

Since the peak of the first Covid-19 wave in mid-September, the seven-day average of new infections across India, which denotes the country’s “Covid curve”, was consistently dropping for eight straight months till February 11, touching a low of 10,988 cases a day. Since then, this number has more than tripled – on average, 37,220 new cases were reported every day in the past week.

Maharashtra, India’s worst-hit state, has majorly contributed to the rise of the second wave and makes up roughly two-thirds of the country’s daily case burden in the past week. The western state is also home to nearly two-thirds of all active infections in the country as on Sunday — 211,416.

Other than Maharashtra, several other regions such as Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi have seen clear resurgence of Covid-19 cases over the past month, forcing several of them to reintroduce restrictions on public assembly and gatherings in an attempt to arrest rising cases.

More than 44,641,471 doses of vaccines have been administered to 37,299,609 people across the country till Sunday night, as per Centre’s Co Win dashboard.

According to experts, the biggest reason for the surge in cases is that people feel the pandemic is over and they are not following Covid-appropriate behaviour.

“There are multiple reasons for the surge, but the main reason is that there is change in people’s attitude and they feel coronavirus is over. People should still restrict non-essential travel for some more time,” All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) director Randeep Guleria was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.

Dr VK Paul, NITI Aayog member (Health), said that to remain free of this virus, it is very important that Covid-appropriate behaviour, containment strategy, readiness from the health infrastructure point of view as well as vaccination has to be brought in to fight the pandemic. He advised that in districts where cases are seemingly on the rise, vaccination of eligible individuals should be intensified and prioritised.

Others said the rise in active cases was expected, given how fast cases have been rising in the past few weeks, and warned that it is increasing the load on the health care system at a time when it is already burdened with one of the largest vaccination drives in the world.

“The active caseload directly depends on incidence of disease in the past 10 or so days. Clearly, the new cases have seen a jump, which is why the number of active cases has also gone up. Active cases going up would mean additional load on health infrastructure, which is not ideal at this stage. The best way to bring the active caseload down is to bring down the number of new cases that can be done by cutting the transmission cycle,” said Dr GC Khilnani, former head of pulmonology department, AIIMS.

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