Major Indian cities on red alert on COVID surge, lockdowns and curfews in place


After almost 4 months, major Indian cities are witnessing a steep surge in new COVID cases.

On Tuesday, January 4, Indian saw an explosion of Covid-19 infections in the country with the daily tally close to 58,000, registering a single-day rise of 56%, the highest during a period of surge since the pandemic began.

Tuesday’s case count had galloped to 57,974 by late night and was likely to cross 58,000 after data from two remaining states came in. This was over 20,000 higher than the tally of 37,123 recorded on Monday and India’s highest daily tally since June 19, 2021, when 58,570 cases were reported.

This is the highest ever recorded since last September. With this surge, Omicron overtakes Delta in places such as the capital New Delhi.

Tuesday was also the eighth consecutive day of rising cases during which the country has seen an unprecedented surge in infections, with daily numbers up nearly nine-fold since 6,242 cases were recorded on Monday, December 27.

Dr N K Arora, the chairman of the COVID-19 working group of the NTAGI, said, “If we look at the behavior of the Omicron wave in South Africa, where it rapidly increased, in two weeks, the number of cases started coming down and most of the cases were either asymptomatic or had a mild illness, along with the decoupling of the total number of Covid cases vis-a-vis those requiring hospitalization. All these factors indicate that the Omicron wave in South Africa may soon subside,” he said.

There are some epidemiological similarities between South Africa and India. The natural infection rates in both the countries are very high, Arora pointed out, adding that however, the immunization rates in India are several fold higher.

“In view of this, we may see a somewhat similar pattern in India as far as the third wave is concerned.

“Looking at the behavior of the Covid infection in the last seven to 10 days in India, I feel that we may be in for a third wave peak very soon,” he said.

Arora, however, asserted that there is no need to press the panic button.

While the active cases in the country account for less than 1 percent of total cases, the recovery rate currently stands at 98.20 percent.

Under the ongoing vaccination drive, nearly 1.46 billion vaccine doses have been administered across the country so far.

While testing capacity has been enhanced across the country, the weekly positivity rate in the country currently stands at 1.68 per cent and the daily positivity rate stands at 3.84 per cent.

India vaccinated more than 3.8 million teens aged between 15 and 18 years as of Monday, as the country expanded an inoculation effort to protect its large adolescent population ahead of a looming wave of coronavirus infections.

The teenagers, many wearing their uniforms, queued at schools and health centers across the country as health workers injected them with Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin – the only COVID-19 vaccine so far approved by India for those below 18 years.

The drive has come amid a sharp rise in cases in India, with the federal health ministry on Monday reporting 33,750 new infections and 123 deaths. The total number of cases of the fast-spreading Omicron variant detected in India was 1,700.

Data from the health ministry’s CoWIN portal showed that 3.85 million doses of vaccines had been administered to those aged between 15 and 17 years on Monday.

Kishan Bhuyan, 17, queued with friends in the eastern city of Bhubaneswar after registering online for the COVID-19 jab.

“I was waiting for this (vaccination) for so long,” Bhuyan, a high school student, said after receiving his vaccine. “I am now protected.”

Several countries including the United States, Britain and South Korea have seen infections among children fuelling a rise in cases in recent weeks and have encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated.

India has more than 120 million people aged between 15 and 19 years, according to the country’s 2011 Census, and the largest population of adolescents in the world, as per UNICEF estimates.

Some Indian states have set ambitious vaccination targets. Authorities in Gujarat, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state, are hoping to give a first dose to 3.6 million teens this week.

“We have the capacity and we have the vaccines to cover most of the children. We appeal to parents to cooperate and ensure the children are vaccinated at the earliest,” said Jai Prakash Shivahare, Gujarat’s health commissioner.

The surge has also prompted many states to impose mild lockdowns and curfews to control the spread.

Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar on Wednesday said people need to be cautious for the next four to six weeks to control a possible third wave of COVID-19 and the spread of Omicron variant in the state.

“New COVID guidelines have been released after a meeting chaired by the Chief Minister. My appeal to the people is, four to six weeks is crucial. As we have observed worldwide, it is declining in five to six weeks. This wave will not be for too long, like in the first and second wave that was for three to four months,” said Sudhakar.

Delhi has imposed a weekend curfew to tackle the massive surge in Covid infections, with cases likely to rise by 10,000 in the last 24 hours.

The Tamil Nadu govt has revised curfew timings. The provision, food, vegetable stores will be available from Mon to Sat (6 am to 12 pm).