Maharashtra reports over 4,000 new Covid cases first time since January 6
Maharashtra on Sunday recorded 4,092 Covid-19 infections, first in excess of 4,000 since January 6, taking its tally to 2,064,278. The 39-day high came after the state averaged around 3,500 new cases for the past four days.
Mumbai, meanwhile, reported over 600 cases after 31 days with 645 fresh infections. The city last saw over 600 cases in a day on January 14. The rise is particularly noticeable in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), and it is being attributed to resumption in local train services, lifting of most curbs and laxity in Covid-appropriate behaviour.
As of Sunday, there were 35,965 active cases in the state. The positivity rate in the state has been over 13% for the past 18 days, data showed. Mumbai’s total tally rose to 314,076, while the city’s active cases count stood at 4,193.
The state reported 40 fatalities on Sunday, taking the toll to 51,529. Mumbai reported four deaths, taking its tally to 11,419. Of the 40 deaths reported, 15 occurred in the past 48 hours and seven in the past week. The remaining 18 deaths were from the period before last week.
Cases in MMR, including Mumbai and cities like Nagpur, Nashik and Pune, have witnessed a spurt in cases over the past two weeks. Daily caseload of MMR touched 1,141, on February 14, up from 592 on February 1. The rise in these two weeks in Pune (353 from 102), Nashik (122 from 45) and Nagpur (437 from 200), too, was sharp.
Health experts, who are also on state government panels and task forces, have attributed the rise in cases to increased movement of people post unlocking, resumption of trains in Mumbai and MMR, and Covid fatigue in wearing masks and sanitising.
Dr Subhash Salunkhe, advisor to the state government on Covid-19 and former director-general of health services, said that he was “warning” of a possible surge in daily cases. He said, “I was warning about it for the past few days. The daily cases that we were seeing for the past few weeks fluctuated. But there was no declining trend week-on-week. Now we are seeing an upward trend.”
Dr Shashank Joshi, member of the Covid task force in the state, said, “Kerala and Maharashtra are outliers. And it has coincided with three things, full unlocking, gram panchayat elections, and some degree of schools and colleges. All these three things have a significant role. In geographies like Mumbai, MMR, the floating population of trains is increasing. These are the reasons that are propping up the cases and needs to be looked at urgently.”
Salunkhe added that resumption in local train services could be a danger for Mumbai if people remain lax in following Covid-appropriate behaviour. “Mumbai could get into trouble with local trains starting and flow of people from its surrounding areas. The numbers were expected to rise as people are lax in Covid-appropriate behaviour. We are seeing a similar rise in Pune district as well as people are behaving as the pandemic has passed,” Salunkhe said.
Dr Joshi added that the train traffic has gone up from 2 million to 3.4 million after the general public was allowed to use trains from February 1. “We definitely need to remain on a red alert and should avoid complacency,” said Joshi.
The experts added that increased public awareness is a key factor in preventing the spike to turn into a surge. Besides that, they said the administration needs to ramp up community testing and tracking. “Community testing has gone down drastically. We need to restart it and tell people that it is their responsibility to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour. There is Covid fatigue that is set in for lack of masking. It should be told to the people that if they do not want another lockdown, they have to start stringent Covid appropriate behaviour and remain on guard,” said Joshi.
Salunkhe added that the vaccination drive is progressing slowly and it will take time for herd immunity to build after inoculation. He said, “The vaccination is happening at a slow pace. The inoculation of the general public (above age 50, and with comorbidities) will start only next month. Till that period at least, people have to remain vigilant.”
For Mumbai, Dr Joshi said that the population that was thus far unexposed to the virus could be getting affected. He suggested that areas should be relooked and put them on “red alert”. “Covid is going to become endemic in Mumbai. We will routinely see cases between 400 and 600 daily. But it should not drastically spike. The exposed population could have been herd immunity, but the unexposed population, which is getting hurt now. For example, children who never stepped out earlier are now going to schools. We might see a spurt in these cases. We need to relook local geographical spots and put them on red alert. Increase testing, tracking and isolation,” Dr Joshi said.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra will start administering the second dose of Covid-19 vaccine to healthcare workers from Monday. Dr DN Patil, state immunisation officer, said that those healthcare workers who got their first vaccination shot on January 16 will be given their second dose on Monday.
On the first day, 18,582 healthcare workers had taken the vaccine in Maharashtra, including 1,926 from Mumbai. The second dose of the vaccine is supposed to be given at a minimum interval of 28 days after the first dose.
“We will start the second shot for healthcare workers. The sessions [on the Co-WIN] have been created, they have been intimated via SMS,” said Dr Patil. The state has so far not planned to increase the vaccination centres so far, Dr Patil said. He said that they would see the response of HCWs and accordingly centres will be increased.
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- The Santacruz station of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), which is indicative of the city’s temperature, recorded a maximum temperature of 36.3 degrees Celsius on Sunday, which was at par with the season’s highest temperature recorded on February 2 and 21.