The Coronavirus is back? The uptick in cases in UK, Germany, Russia and US in the fall season (Autumn) - exactly the time when the second wave had hit European countries and US last year (2020) - raises the alarm. Will the history repeat in Odisha and country?
As per the WHO data, USA had recorded a daily case count of 80,460 with 1,681 deaths on Oct 30. The case count in Russia hovered around 40k with over 1.6k deaths. UK had also notched up a daily case count of 39 k. The new daily infections in euro countries like Germany hovered below 25k. Cases are high in Turkey, Ukraine etc.
The WHO chief had observed that the spike in 2021 fall season again emphasises that the pandemic is not yet over.
India Viral Scenario
In India, the new daily caseload had been on the downslide for the last 126 days (means since July). The new daily infections on Oct 30 stood at 14.3 k. But history tells that after attaining first wave peak in September, it returned after nearly 5 months. The second wave hit India in March 2021.
An analysis shows when the country took nearly 4 -months to record a daily caseload of around 14 k during the first wave, it took nearly 5-months post the second wave peak to record 14k.
Significantly, the country took a longer period to record 14k, despite the launch of the world's largest vaccination drive, which highlighted the Delta variant's diabolical traits.
Rise of New Delta Strain
Alpha variant triggered second wave in US and many Euro countries. Delta stoked the second wave of wildfire in India. Now, the emerging third wave like situation in countries like Russia, UK is blamed on Delta Plus (AY.4.2).
In India, a total of 17 cases have been traced to this AY.4.2 variant. The 17 cases were spread in the 5 states - Andhra Pradesh (7), Kerala (4), Karnataka and Telangana (2 each), Maharashtra and J&K (1each).
"AY.4 is the most common Delta sublineage in the world. It accounts for 70 percent of SARS-CoV2 genome sequenced worldwide. It has now given rise to two recognised sublineages - AY.4.1 and AY.4.2," said Prof Francois Balloux (Director, UCL Genetics Institute, UK).
As per CDC reports, the sublineage AY.4.2 is rare in US and elsewhere in the globe, except UK and Russia. Therefore, WHO and US-CDC have listed it as a variant-of-interest (VOI).
"The variant has not been listed as VoC (Variant of Concern) because, the spike Y145H and A222V mutations don't fall in the Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) and are not obvious candidates for immune escape, increased transmissibility or higher virulence. They are also not mutations found in other Variants of Concern (VOCs)," opined Prof Balloux.
But in India, the dominant variant during the second wave had been B.1.617.2 with AA nucleotide mutations. Moreover, AY.1 or Delta plus had also been detected. Only 17 AY,4.2 cases.
Detection of a few AY.4.2 strains in India, thus, shows its low transmissibility. Moreover, as per GISAID data, the dominant variant in India in October is B.1.617.2. And the mutations had been in AA nucleotide.
As per the data available with the State Health Department, the active cases in the State declined 2.3k within 90 days. The cases were nosedived by 93 percent during the period.
The active cases in the State as on Oct 31 stands at 3.89k from a peak of over 1lakh on May 23, 2021. The cases were down by 96 percent in a span of 150 days.
Data further shows that active cases had declined by 86 percent between May 23 - Aug 1, when the lockdown was in place and the vaccination rate was up by 24 percent.
Post relaxations, the active cases were down by 72 percent between Aug 1-Oct 30, when the vaccination rate had grown by 206 percent.
The above data shows lockdown type restrictions had a better impact in curbing the spread of the virus than that of the vaccination.
The dominant variant in the State has been B.1.617.2. No AY.4.2 isolated till date.
Vaccination No Wonder?
The long tail of the second wave had been attributed to B.1.617.2. Consider the following.
Active cases in India declined by 64 per cent between July and October when the number of doses covered increased by 211 percent. This highlights the vaccination impact in curbing the spread of B.1.617.2 type in the country.
India: As of today, 24 percent population are fully vaccinated. And 29 percent are covered by a single dose.
Russia: The sharp surge in AY.4.2 cases in Russia is attributed to low vaccination coverage. Here only 38 percent population is vaccinated by at least a single dose.
USA: The country is posting high cases despite vaccination (at least by single dose) 66 percent of population. 57 percent fully vaccinated.
UK: The new cases are high despite 67 percent of the population having been fully vaccinated.
The above numbers show that the return of Covid-19 in Russia has been due to low vaccine coverage. But when India's figures are seen in contrast with UK and USA, the risk of surge persists in the country.
As per the studies by US - CDC, ZOE (health science company in UK), the rise in the respective countries has been attributed to new cases in unvaccinated, including 0-18 year age-group, and single-dose vaccinated population.
"With the lockdown restrictions having been lifted, unhindered mixing of people is responsible for a rise in cases. And this is due to Delta variant that has a spread rate of 60-113 percent higher than Wuhan prototype," the study said.
US-CDC data revealed that the higher cases in USA have been due to more infections in 0-18 years and 18-35 years - who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
"Vaccines are only partially effective in preventing people from contracting the disease. But it prevents severity, hospitalisation and death," says the CDC study.
The above analysis shows risks of the Third Wave still high as only 68 percent of eligible population in the State are covered by atleast a single dose. When seen with the whole of over 4.5 cr population, only 57 percent have been covered by single dose in Odisha. And only 24 percent of the population are fully vaccinated.
Unhindered mixing of people may trigger Russia and UK like situations in the State as the B.1.617.2 is still the dominant strain of the state.