The coronavirus is showing a concentrated spurt in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region and the infection is slowly getting transmitted to other places like Pune and Mumbai, a senior state health official has said. If not controlled, it can spread to other states in the country, Dr Subhash Salunke, technical adviser to the Maharashtra government on COVID-19 outbreak, told reporters here on Wednesday night.
The official, who received a COVID-19 vaccine shot on Tuesday, also said the state could have done much better as far as vaccination is concerned. Maharashtra on Wednesday witnessed a significant rise in coronavirus cases, with more than 8,000 new infections coming to light in a single day after a gap of over four months, health officials said.
The state has so far reported a total of 21,21,119 COVID-19 cases, as per official figures. “It is very difficult to say whether this is a second wave, but the virus is showing a concentrated spurt in some areas like Vidarbha, starting from Nagpur, Amravati till Aurangabad (located in Marathwada region),” the official said.
Now, the virus is slowly getting transmitted to other districts like Pune and Mumbai, he said. “If we do not control it, it will spread to other states in the country. Whether it will spread 100 per cent, nobody is sure, but yes, it has the potential,” he said.
On reasonsbehind thespike in COVID-19 cases in some districts of Vidarbha, he said there are three factors — the first one is the virus, its structure, mutations and capacity of transmission, the second factor is the person who harbours the virus and transmits it to others, and third is the environment, weather, housing structure and pollution. “So, an interplay of the three factors is responsible for the transmission and its ups and downs,” he said.
He said every viral disease which is outbreak-prone, has shown ups and downs, so in the last two months, COVID-19 cases showed a downward trend and now there is an upward trend. Dr Salunke also said that as indicated by the director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the coronavirus mutation in Amravati and Yavatmal districts is not responsible for the present surge in Maharashtra.
“However, the ICMR has not been able to come out exactly on whether there is any new mutant or not,” he said. A study on this is currently being done by the Pune- based National Institute of Virology and the National Centre for Disease Control in New Delhi and other labs, and samples from eight districts have been sent there, he said.
The results of these studies will be available by this month-end, he informed. On precautions and measures that need to be taken to contain the virus, the official said there is no need for any new strategy to tackle the situation as the existing strategies are quite adequate and effective.
“Lockdown is the last resort. Setting up of micro- containment zones, restrictions on movement in containment areas, increased surveillance, contact-tracing and increase in testing and isolation of active cases are some of the key steps which can check spread of the virus,” he said. Asked about the COVID-19 vaccination in Maharashtra, Dr Salunke said the state could have done better.
So far, 10,80,675 have been inoculated in the state. “As a matter of fact, I have been vehemently arguing that the Government of India should have designed communication strategies before January 16. We knew that some doctors, nurses and others were hesitant about taking the jab.
Vaccine hesitancy is known phenomena,” the official said. Dr Salunke said he had asked his colleagues in the health ministry as to why they did not make preparations earlier to address the apprehensions of those who were going to be given the vaccine shots.
This is the reason that the vaccination number in the state is on the lower side, he said. “There is a failure on our side also, that we as doctors should have been more pro-active and should have convinced our colleagues and nurses to come forward to take the vaccine,” he said.
The Centre on Wednesday announced that people over 60 years and those above 45 with co-morbidities can get COVID-19 vaccine from March 1.