The government is still trying to figure out the cause behind the surge in Covid-19 cases in states like Maharashtra and Kerala, but has ruled out any of the variants as being responsible for the spike.
“There is no scientific reason to believe they (variants) are responsible for the surge...This is a work in progress and eminent scientists are watching the situation,” said V K Paul, member (health) of NITI Aayog.
Kerala and Maharashtra account for 75 per cent of the total active cases in the country. The daily case trajectory is also seeing a surge in Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Jammu & Kashmir. In Maharashtra, the daily case count on Tuesday went up from around 3,600 on February 13 to over 5,200.
The government will send out special teams to these states for “deep insights” into the cause of rising cases.
Besides the three strains from the UK, South Africa, and Brazil, the India Sars-Cov-2 Genomic consortium is monitoring two more mutations — N440K and E484K — that were detected in India for the first time last year. These two have been found in some districts of Maharashtra, Kerala, and Telangana.
“These mutations happen and we are closely watching not just the three famous ones but others as well. As analysed and understood, we do not see attributions of the mutant strains to upsurge of cases,” Paul said. The consortium has sequenced 3,500 virus samples and found 187 cases of UK strain, 6 of South Africa, and one person with Brazil variant. “The virus is still around. Even when high intensity epidemics have happened such as in Pune, a resurgence has happened...Those outside the urban conglomerates are vulnerable. Virus like gatherings, parties therefore precautions continue to be relevant,” Paul said.
On the role of the private sector in the vaccination drive, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the private sector had played a big role in health initiatives of the government, such as the Prime Minister Jan Arogya Yojana and the Central Government Health Scheme. Of the 10,000 hospitals involved in the vaccination drive, 2,000 were private, he said.
“The Centre is aware of the multiplier effect that the private sector can have...The private sector will be used to ramp up vaccination in a big way in the coming day,” Bhushan said.
Corporate India, however, has pitched for increased participation in the drive going beyond private hospitals. The Confederation of Indian Industry had recommended that companies be allowed to vaccinate their employees and immediate family, as well as assist in rolling out the vaccine in surrounding communities as part of their corporate social responsibility.