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The recent surge in covid-19 infections in the National Capital Region (NCR) has set alarm bells ringing, with government agencies trying to ascertain if a new covid variant is at play. Mint examines whether a fourth wave is coming:

Is this the fourth wave of covid-19 infections?

Simply put: Too early to say. As soon as the third wave ebbed in early February, the Delhi government lifted all covid restrictions. People dropped their guard and gave up covid-appropriate behaviour. Many stopped wearing face masks, one of the biggest protections against covid infections. Delhi reported 501 fresh covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours and the positivity rate has now touched 7.72%, indicating the virus is still circulating and can infect high-risk people. However, doctors haven’t reported serious cases of hospitalization or a rise in mortality.

Has a new variant been identified?

Not yet. The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is analysing the reasons behind the spike across the NCR. A slight uptick has also been noticed in the north-eastern states and in Kerala. Samples from across the NCR have been dispatched for genome sequencing to verify if any new variant is playing a role in the surge. The results are likely to come in later this week. Subsequently, the lieutenant governor of Delhi is expected to chair a meeting with the Centre and the state government. Mandatory mask rules are likely to be re-introduced.

Photo: Reuters
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Photo: Reuters

What are the variants in circulation now?

Omicron, which is said to be a mild variant, has four sub-types—BA.1, BA.2, BA.3, and BA.4. Of these, BA.1 and BA.2 are the predominant strains in India. As of now, Omicron variant’s X-series is circulating in India—this originated when BA.1 and BA.2 merged with one another. Last year, the Delta variant was widespread in the country, a more fatal variant compared to Omicron.

Will schools be shut again?

Shutting schools again will be a knee-jerk reaction, particularly in the backdrop of the learning loss of the past two years. Children below 12, however, aren’t vaccinated in India just yet. Many experts say there is little data to suggest they need to be jabbed. Having said that, a few cases are being reported among school children in NCR. Experts have advised that schools maintain well-ventilated classrooms, conduct classes in shifts with fewer students, and ensure that all students don’t take lunch at the same time.

What does the global scenario suggest?

Several cities in China and Europe are witnessing a spike in covid-19 cases. Shanghai is reporting thousands of cases every day, despite implementing China’s ‘zero covid strategy’. This is clearly not a good sign for other countries—the world risks losing all the gains made in controlling infections over the last two years. However, experts said in India, people have developed immunity through both natural infection and vaccination. Even with the recent spike in the NCR, the situation, by and large, is far better in the country.

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