The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was well controlled in India due to implementation of lockdowns, ensuring physical distancing, enforcement of adoption of masks, and the rapid and exemplary action from our health services – all of which contributed to the relatively lower severity in India and the effective muting of the first wave. However, none of the scientists or health experts ever predicted the catastrophe would be so close.
It was anticipated that the second wave would be of small-scale and inconsequential. Yet the second wave turned out to be a complete turmoil. The intensity of the second wave of COVID-19 has already collapsed the available health infrastructure and has swept away the entire world let alone the nation.
Possible Reasons for the Unusual Surge
Although the causes of the vehemence of the second wave is under investigation, many factors could be the basis of this eccentric ascent.
- Lax public behaviour
Loosening of COVID-appropriate behaviour by the public is an important trigger in the exponential growth of COVID cases during the second wave. An increase in movement of people has been seen in the mobility data of smartphones which is available publicly during the months just ahead of the second wave. Along with increased public mobility and reduced social distancing norms, poor masking is another significant factor in the rise of COVID cases.
- Exposure of population previously uninfected
The heterogeneous exposure of public to the virus during the first wave can be a source of the high susceptibility. There were some sections of the population which were exposed more than others during the first wave. People who were not exposed earlier and had secured themselves well in the first wave were exposed during the second.
- Waning immunity after first exposure
Though seropositivity has been shown to be dominant, diminishing immunity could also be a contributing factor in the unexpected surge during the second wave.
- Large crowds and gathering
Weddings, parties, social gatherings, crowded market places and malls, political and election rallies, and large religious gatherings that were seen during the months just before the second wave is a matter of concern making us look back on why restrictions on large public gatherings were not strictly enforced and abided by. There look like the most obvious reasons for the rampant spread of the virus in the second wave.
- Emergence of new variants of the virus
The increased susceptibility might also have been contributed by the new variants of the virus. The UK variant, B.1.1.7 which is known for its higher transmissibility is already widespread in North India and rising in other parts of the country as well. On the other hand, the Maharashtra variant, B.1.617 is also increasing along with B.1.1.7.
The Way Forward
It is never one factor that can be held responsible for the rising COVID cases in India. However, together they are causing the crippling effect that the country is witnessing. Apart from vaccination-expansion, the only other way out of this distressing event is prevention. Ensuring behavioural change to adopt COVID appropriate ones are critical to prevent a third wave in the future. So, buckle up your masks and maintain social distancing while we march our way out of the tunnel.