The third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India is "inevitable" and could hit the country in the next six to eight weeks, AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria said on Saturday.
As the unlocking of COVID-related restrictions has started across the country, Dr Guleria stated that India's major challenge is vaccinating its huge population.
He added that the increase in dosage gaps for Covishield "may not be a bad" approach to cover more people.
Talking about the new Delta-Plus variant, Dr Guleria stressed that a new frontier will have to be established in the country's fight against COVID-19 to further explore the mutation of the virus.
Evolved from the Delta variant of COVID-19, Delta-Plus strain, has sparked fresh concerns in India. Though there is no indication yet of the severity of the disease due to the new variant, Delta plus is resistant to the monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment for COVID-19 recently authorised in India.
"As we have started unlocking, there is again a lack of Covid-appropriate behaviour. We don't seem to have learnt from what happened between the first and the second wave. Again crowds are building up... people are gathering. It will take some time for the number of cases to start rising at the national level. Third wave is inevitable and it could hit the country within the next six to eight weeks... may be a little longer," Dr Guleria said told NDTV.
"It all depends on how we go ahead in terms of COVID-appropriate behaviour and preventing crowds," he added.
Around 5% of India's population has so far been vaccinated with two doses of COVID-19 vaccine. The Centre is targeting to vaccinate 108 crore of over 130 crore people in the country by the end of 2021.
Acknowledging vaccination as the main challenge, Dr Guleria noted that "a new wave can usually take up to three months, but it can also take much less time, depending on various factors."
He further said that, besides COVID-appropriate behaviour, "we need to ensure strict surveillance."
"Last time, we saw a new variant - which came from outside and developed here - led to the huge surge in the number of cases. We know the virus will continue to mutate. Aggressive surveillance in hotspots is required," the AIIMS chief said.
"Mini-lockdown in any part of the country, which witnesses a surge and a rise in positivity rate beyond 5 per cent, will be required. Unless we're vaccinated, we're vulnerable in the coming months," he highlighted, emphasising that "testing, tracking, and treating" should be the focus in hotspots.
"We have to factor in human behaviour while unlocking, which needs to be done in a graded manner," Dr Guleria underlined.
Copyright©2021 Living Media India Limited. For reprint rights: Syndications Today