Not a second Covid wave, but a spike: Maharashtra task force
Maharashtra at the moment is likely witnessing a spike in Covid-19 cases and not a second wave, believes the state’s task force, saying the test positivity rate indicates so and that the current trajectory is similar to September 2020 when there was increased movement of people due to Ganesh Chaturthi. This comes amid the steady spurt in cases in the state over the past few weeks, fuelling speculation, however, experts attribute this rise to increased testing.
According to experts, a spike means the number of cases rises for a few days and then comes back to normal levels, while in the case of a wave, the infections keep rising,
In February, the test positivity rate — the total number of cases testing positive for Covid-19 against the total tests done — was 7.8%, despite the 40% rise in cases from January, data revealed. “We conducted over 1.6 million tests in February, as a result of which, new cases increased. Had there been a second wave, the positivity rate should have also surged. In January, Maharashtra recorded around 5% positivity rate, which in February increased by a mere 2 percentage points,” said Dr Satish Pawar, state surveillance officer.
According to data provided by the state health department, there were 90,673 cases in Maharashtra in January, which increased to 126,723 in February. The sudden spike was observed from mid-February with a significant share from Amravati, Yavatmal, Akola, Mumbai and Pune.
In contrast, the state’s positivity rate was higher in the last four months of 2020 — 20% in September and October; 18% in November and 16% in December. Data from the state health government showed that in September 2020, as many as 2,646,276 tests were conducted in the state; in October there were 2,182,198 tests. In January 2021, 1,869,535 tests were conducted.
In Mumbai, too, when 543,821 tests were conducted in September, the positivity rate was 14%. However, while the number of tests in January and February stood at 433,681 and
459,794, the positivity rate didn’t show a spike. It was around 4% in January and 5.3% in February.
“Last year, in the middle of September, the state had observed a similar spike after Ganesh Chaturthi and gradual relaxation of the lockdown. It gradually flattened by October-end. So, this year, with the starting of local trains and laxity on the part of citizens in not following Covid norms, cases increased. So, we can’t call it a second wave,” said Dr Gautam Bhansali, attached to Bombay Hospital and in charge of Covid-19 beds in private hospitals.
Dr Subhash Salunkhe, technical adviser to the Maharashtra government on Covid-19, also overruled the spike as a “second wave”. “There has been a mutation of the virus, which is more infectious. But it is contained to a few districts like Amaravati, So far, considering that there hasn’t been much of a surge in positivity rate and also, the death rate is under control, we may not be facing a second wave. But we need a few more days to come to a conclusion,” he said.