Health worker PCR swab mumbai
A health worker wearing protective gear takes a nasal swab sample of arriving passengers for conducting RT-PCR Covid-19 coronavirus tests during a screening at a railway terminus in Mumbai on February 22, 2021, as India's coronavirus cases passed 11 million. Image Credit: AFP

India is recovering from the deadly second wave that killed tens of thousands. Daily infections peaked on May 6 when the country recorded 414,188 cases in 24 hours. Since then, daily cases and deaths have come down substantially — India recorded a 125-day low of 30,093 cases on Tuesday. Active cases have also come down to a little over 400,000.

Life is returning to normal and barring a few exceptions, most public activities have resumed with some restrictions. Still, the fear of a third wave is real and experts have been raising concerns over gatherings in markets and tourist spots. A close reading of the recent Covid-19 statistics shows that the delta variant remains active and is still spreading. For example, in the last 10 days, daily infections rose with up to 20 per cent increment. On Wednesday, 42,015 new cases were reported, a big jump from over 30,000 the previous day. The 3,998 deaths were the highest since June 12 after one state revised its mortality figures.

There is a growing consensus that a third wave is inevitable due to poor pace of vaccination and widespread disregard of safety protocols by state governments and people. But the numbers of the past few days suggest that the second wave may still be infecting people and growth of new infections is a disturbing trend. The numbers in the coming days will reveal a more accurate picture and if this trend continues then a big surge cannot be ruled out.

The rise in numbers came a day after the Indian government released findings of a national blood serum survey, showing presence of antibodies against coronavirus in two-thirds of India’s population. The study also said that around 400 million people did not have antibodies. Also on Tuesday, a new study by the Washington-based Centre for Global Development, co-authored by India’s former chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian, said almost 4.9 million may have died in the country since January last year, suggesting gross undercounting of mortalities.

While the debate on India’s real death count will go on, the immediate challenge is to slow down the spread of delta variant and act swiftly to prevent a big outbreak. This can only be done by rapidly widening the vaccine coverage — from over 5 per cent — and by enforcing safety protocols, including wearing of masks even among the vaccinated population. The coming weeks are critical for India’s fight against the pandemic and government agencies and health care providers must continue to closely monitor new infections.