People not adhering to COVID-appropriate behaviour and the circulation of highly infectious strains of SARS-COV-2 could be the primary reasons behind the surge in coronavirus infections in India, AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria said on Monday.
He also warned that if the situation is not reversed, then the galloping infection rate will eventually cause a huge strain on the country's healthcare system. He sought stricter enforcement of COVID-appropriate behaviour on the ground level by the administration and authorities.
"Around February, when cases started to decrease, people became lax towards following COVID-appropriate behaviour as they thought the virus had become ineffective. "People are taking the disease lightly now. If you go out, you see that marketplaces, restaurants and shopping malls are crowded and full of people and these all are super-spreader events," Guleria said.
Earlier, if one sick person was able to infect around 30 per cent of their contacts, this time those getting the disease are infecting a larger number of people, he said. "So, the rate of spread of the infection is fast possibly due to the highly infectious and transmissible strains circulating," he added.
Various strains of SARS-CoV-2, including the UK, South Africa and Brazil variants, are circulating in India and have been termed as highly transmissible by experts. Guleria said the entire humanity is going through a difficult time and "unless it is important, people should not venture out. Also, it has to be ensured that there is no gathering and stricter enforcement of COVID-appropriate behaviour has to be ensured".
"We may lose the gains we have made so far if we do not pay heed now," and the situation may completely get out of control, he said. "If the situation is not reversed, then the galloping infection rate will eventually cause a huge strain on the healthcare system also," he stressed.
The AIIMS chief also urged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Though the vaccine will not protect a person from contracting the infection, it will prevent its progression to a severe form and thereby reduce mortality, Guleria said.
But wearing a mask and following other protocols is equally important, he added. India on Monday recorded the biggest single-day jump of 1,68,912 fresh COVID-19 cases that took the infection tally to 1,35,27,717, according to Union health ministry data.
Ten states -- Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan -- have shown a steep rise in daily cases, accounting for 83.02 per cent of the infections reported in a day.