Manasi Saraf Joshi
Pune, 23 March 2021: Every new day brings new record highs of Covid-19 patients in Maharashtra State, putting already worried citizens into new worry. At one end, when politicians and administration are blaming the lackadaisical attitude of the citizens, at other end scientists and researchers while giving caution underline the need to study the reasons behind the sudden spike in the Covid-19 cases.
The cases are rising in Maharashtra despite no elections, mass gatherings or congregation of people. This has made the administration and scientists perplexed.
Maharashtra saw a declining curve in the Covid-19 patients in September which continued till early February. However, suddenly the cases started surging, putting the government machinery in frenzy. Every person started blaming the other for not following the guidelines. The administration started taking steps by imposing night curfews, limiting the movement of the people, advising 50% attendance in the offices, closing down of the educational institutes among others.
Still, it failed to contain the virus and every day brought high figures of Covid-19 positive patients.
Reasons behind the spike
“This virus is a respiratory virus, which spreads when a person sneezes or coughs. The way we cannot predict why it rained in one part of the city, in the same manner it is difficult to pinpoint one reason behind the spike”, said researcher Dr Milind Watve.
He added, “It is a very complex system and the situation in Maharashtra is extraordinary. Many things need to be studied deeply to understand it. Today, we are seeing a surge, while in September we saw the declining graph of the patients. All these need to be studied deeply.”
Microbiologist Dr Yogesh Shouche said, “We need to study the environment, genes, weather conditions and many other aspects to understand the surge in Maharashtra especially in cities like Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Aurangabad”.
“There is no research conducted which can tell us the sudden surge. Maharashtra saw this kind of surge last year too and again this year during the same period, we can notice the rise in the Covid-19 patients”, Shouche said.
Both the researchers clearly said that not wearing a mask, not following the social distancing cannot be the only reason for the surge. These things must be followed strictly but a deep study is needed.
Another expert on the condition of anonymity said, “The Government of India under Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG) found 4879 genome sequencing was done with 5% of Covid-19 positive persons in which it found 297 foreign variants. In this 284 were UK variants, 11 were from South Africa and one of Brazil. Rest were all local.
The expert added that this study was conducted for the entire country. In February one variant was found which is not responding to the antibodies. Same variants were found in a few samples collected from Vidarbha.
“Two mutations 484Q and L452R were detected so far. But again there is no one known reason to know its spike”, the expert mentioned.
“The good sign this time is that the majority of the patients are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms and even the death rate is very low. Patients are not requiring the hospitalisation like last year”, Dr Shouche said.
Dr Watve mentioned that “virus will gradually become weak but it is going to stay with us. We need to take care for sure”.
Measures to tackle it
“Studies are being conducted in Europe regarding the reasons for the spike. Lockdown is not the solution and this has been proved several times. Sweden did not shut the schools. No study is underway in India unfortunately”, said Dr Watve.
Dr Watve said we have not yet understood the science completely. Dr Shouche too mentioned that deep studies needed to know the reasons and all these should be interdisciplinary.
Quashing the idea of lockdown, all the researchers were unanimous that wearing mass, avoiding crowded places and maintaining social distance must be there.