COVID-19 has peaked in India, can be contained by February though stringent measures, says govt panel
The committee said that stringent adherence to COVID-19 precautionary measures is key to curb the spread of the infection by next year
A government-appointed committee said that the coronavirus pandemic has peaked in India and can be controlled through stringent precautions, according to several media reports.
The committee, headed by IIT Hyderabad professor M Vidyasagar, added that the pandemic is likely to abate by February 2021.
The committee said that stringent adherence to COVID-19 precautionary measures is key to curb the spread of the infection by next year.
"If all protocols are followed, the pandemic can be controlled by early next year with minimal active cases by February end," the panel was quoted as saying by NDTV.
Using software to study the trajectory of the pandemic in the country, the committee found that the infections are likely to have peaked mid-September, Indian Express reported. The report also quoted the panel as saying that the total number of cases is "unlikely to exceed 106 lakh".
The total caseload in the country rose to 74,94,551 on Sunday, the Union health ministry said in its 8 am update.
The committee also claimed that the nationwide lockdown imposed in March played a significant role in limiting deaths due to the disease. It said that without the lockdown, the toll would have risen to 25 lakh, as opposed to the current toll of 1.14 lakh.
However, the committee indicated that additional lockdowns are "undesirable".
NDTV reported that the committee warned that upcoming festivals could increase chances of a COVID-19 spread. "Relaxation in safety measures" and "laxity" in following precautions "can lead to a significant rise", the committee warned.
It also quoted the committee as saying that with only 30 percent of the population having developed immunity so far, a spike in cases can see as many as 26 lakh cases in a month.
Meanwhile, the NITI Aayog on Sunday said that the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 infections during the winter season "cannot be ruled out".
NITI Aayog member VK Paul noted that the number of new coronavirus cases and deaths have declined in the last three weeks as the spread of the pandemic has stabilised in most states, but did not rule out the possibility of a second wave of infections in the winter.
Paul, who is also the chief of an expert panel coordinating efforts to tackle the pandemic in the country, added that once the COVID-19 vaccine is available, there will be enough resources to deliver as well as make it accessible to citizens.
"In India, the new coronavirus cases and number of deaths have declined in the last three weeks and the pandemic has stabilised in most of the states.
"However, there are five states (Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal) and 3-4 Union Territories (UTs), where there is still a rising trend," Paul told PTI in an interview.
He is heading the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC).
According to him, India is in a better position now but the country still has a long way to go because 90 percent of the people are still susceptible to coronavirus infections, PTI reported.
On whether India could see a second wave of coronavirus infections in the winter, Paul said that with the onset of winter, countries across Europe are seeing resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
"We cannot rule out (a second coronavirus wave this winter in India). Things can happen and we are still learning about the virus," Paul noted.
He also stressed on COVID-19-appropriate behaviour during festival season and winter months.
"Because of the winter season, some increase in pollution in north India as well as festival season, we have to be very careful... coming months are a challenge. One would be worried that we could lose the gains that we have made," Paul said.
He also cautioned against any complacency about the decline in the number of new cases and called for keeping up the efforts to contain the pandemic.
"If we don't take precaution, if we are not careful, because we are susceptible there can be escalation. God forbid, but we can avoid it. This is in our hand, whether India has another wave or not is very much in our own hand," the Niti Aayog member said.
With inputs from PTI
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