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The union government is concerned about the sharp spike in covid cases, with new reported cases on Monday doubling to more than 4,500 in the last 24 hours, bringing the active case load to 25,000, the highest in nearly three months.

The health ministry has asked states with the highest number of active cases —Maharashtra (6,767), Karnataka (2,414), Kerala (8,835), Delhi (1,445), Uttar Pradesh (892) and Telangana (500)—to take measures to control the surge.

Scientists and doctors advised people to wear masks and follow covid- appropriate measures.

The Centre has also asked these states to monitor influenza-like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) cases in all health facilities on a regular basis and conduct continuous genome sequencing of all covid samples.

Dr Samiran Panda, Additional Director General at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said the surge, particularly in Maharashtra, is being seen in a few districts. “This increase seems because people have stopped following covid appropriate measures. We should not create panic. People should wear masks as it will not only prevent them from contracting covid but also from other communicable diseases."

In a related development, the Maharashtra government may bring back mandatory wearing of masks, said Aditya Thackeray, a state cabinet minister.

Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India said, “It is very clear that this virus will continue to a part of our environment, even if it keeps changing form. Its capacity to evolve new variants, with increasing infectivity and greater immune escape capability, is part of the evolutionary biology pathway and should not be a surprise. It is also now exhibiting lesser virulence, because the Omicron family is mostly confined to the upper respiratory tract, sparing the lungs and blood vessels."

“Whenever immunity wanes in sections of the population, new variants emerge and covid appropriate behaviours are abandoned, conditions are ripe for an outbreak. The number of people infected will periodically rise and fall but the numbers of seriously ill persons will not be alarming. At the level of immunity that exists in India presently, we will not have a major threat. However, we have to protect people with low immunity and curtail transmission through effective masking, while watching out for new variants. By way of infections, we may see a fourth wave if we are careless but we will not see a tidal wave of serious cases in the next few months." said Prof. Reddy.

“It’s essential that people, especially the high risk group including senior citizens, pregnant women and immunocompromised patients with chronic conditions should wear masks, avoid crowded places and maintain hand hygiene," said Dr Harshad Limaye, senior consultant, internal medicine, Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital.

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