Covid situation has stabilised but R-number is high in five states, says govt

Raising a red flag, the Centre on Tuesday said that while Covid-19 cases are “stabilising” across the country, the reproduction number (or R value) greater than 1, specifically from newer states, including Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, is a “significant reason to be concerned”.

The warning by the head of India’s Covid-19 task force, Dr V K Paul, came after the Health Ministry on Tuesday said that eight states are reporting R value equal to 1 and above, which indicates how fast the virus is spreading in a region.

The ministry said that in Punjab, which is reporting R of 1.3, the daily cases are increasing. Similarly, in Himachal Pradesh (1.3 R), Uttar Pradesh (1.1 R), and Andhra Pradesh (1 R) there is an indication of a likely increase in cases. In Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh (1.1), Goa and Nagaland (1), daily cases are stable but require strict containment.

“If you look at the overall picture, our R is hovering around 1. But some states are reporting more than 1, and there is an increasing trend which is a cause for concern,” Paul said. “Again, a very profound word of caution: (in) Himachal Punjab and Uttar Pradesh (daily new cases can) likely increase; and Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh R are at 1.1. This shows although there is stabilisation in number of cases, we still have significant reasons to be concerned and vigilant — and significant reasons to enforce pandemic control measures.”

The Health Ministry also said that 44 districts in the country are reporting a case positivity rate of more than 10 percent. It said 37 districts are showing an increasing trend in average daily new cases. Kerala (11), Tamil Nadu (7), Himachal Pradesh (6), and Karnataka (5) are the top states with maximum districts showing an increasing trend in average daily cases.

“This is not the time to lower the guard,” Paul said. “We have to be vigilant. Covid-appropriate behaviour, compliance with masks, and not having crowds in closed rooms — all those precautions continue to be very important.”

On Tuesday, the Centre also said that out of 58,240 samples sequenced in the country, 28,932 have been detected with a variant of concern (VOC). Dr Sujeet Kumar Singh, director, National Centre of Disease Control, said that as of July, 90 percent of VOC detected in the country were of the highly infectious Delta variant.

Raising concerns over the dominance of Delta variant in the country, Paul said there is growing evidence of an increase in viral load found in patients infected with the highly infectious variant. “There is also a clear message that the Delta variant is ruling the nation; in fact, ruling the world,” he said. “You can see the spread of Delta everywhere, which is behind the upsurge of cases. The updated report of WHO on the characteristics of Delta, based on current evidence, shows that transmissibility and attack rate is more.”

“If we assume transmissibility of the original virus to be 100, the Alpha variant that originated in the UK was 60 percent more transmissible; and Delta is 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha, which is 250. New evidence from China is also showing the interval between the exposure of virus and the infection has reduced, as the viral load has increased,” Paul said.

Singh said the Delta-plus variant, a sub-lineage of the Delta variant, was detected in just 86 samples sequenced by INSACOG. “We have also seen that the Delta-plus variant does not have that much of public health significance over and above the Delta,” Paul said.

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