Punjab: The case of the falling COVID numbers in Chandigarh

“We have to remember that the first shot of the vaccine won’t give the immunity desired, it’s only after the second dose that our immunity levels will go up, but not 100 per cent," said Medical Superintendent Dr VK Nagpal.

The New Year started on a healthy note, with only 35 new Covid positive cases reported on January 1, and the cases on a steady decline since more than a week now.

The growth rate has fallen down to 0.3 per cent that is in the last one week, the number of new infections has grown by an average of 0.3. From December 27 to 30, the number of cases was between 63 and 67, with December 31 reporting 39 new cases.

On January 2, Chandigarh reported 29 new COVID positive cases, while on January 3, only 16 people tested positive cases, while on January 4; the city had 43 new cases.

The case-fatality ratio has been about 1.6 per cent for the past ten days, with on an average one death reported. The test positivity ratio is a high 10.8, though testing has been increased, with an average of 1,200 tests per day.

Dr Vikas Bhutani, Director, Internal Medicine. Fortis Hospital, Mohali, feels the falling numbers of new cases in India and Chandigarh could be due to a significant proportion of the population already been infected with the virus in asymptomatic, sub-clinical or mild category resulting in some sort of herd immunity in certain pockets and communities.

“This is the most likely hypothesis which is being debated among scientists and medical professionals but of course, we don’t have evidence to support it. Additionally, sero-surveillance studies conducted in various parts of India across various population subgroups have also pointed towards the presence of anti-COVID-19 IgG antibodies in the population to varying percentages suggesting immunity against the infection. Another reason though not universally valid but there are a select group of people especially related to healthcare and allied businesses, where the compliance to wearing masks is high to very high, leading to a falling trend of new infections. And I don’t foresee the new surge in India due to the reasons mentioned,” said Dr Bhutani.

As for the new strain that has emerged in the UK and how likely are people in this region to be affected by it, Dr Bhutani said that Coronavirus already has more than 50 mutant strains identified so far and this is the natural history of any virus to mutate and generate new strains over a period of time.

The UK Covid-19 strain is found to be more contagious but not more virulent than the original strain. More than 30 countries have already reported cases of the UK variant of SARS-CoV-2.

“Since viruses don’t understand any barriers, hence, it is likely that this region will also get affected with this strain or for that matter any mutant strain. So, my advice is not to leave your safety guard down, such as wearing face masks, frequent hand washing and maintaining social distancing while moving outdoors, even if you get vaccinated or have COVID-19 antibodies as a result of natural infection. SARS-Cov2 as Covid-19 is going to stay for the next couple of years and this global pandemic will eventually end as being endemic in various places,” he added.

Talking about the vaccine development, the doctor added that globally the coronavirus vaccine is getting approvals as emergency use authorisation across various countries and the vaccination drive is in full swing, targeting healthcare and frontline workers in the first phase.

India too has joined the league with granting restricted emergency use approvals to Oxford-Serum Institute’s ‘Covishield’ and Bharat Biotech’s ‘Covaxin’.

“As per DCGI, the vaccines have been approved for restricted use in public interest as an abundant precaution, in clinical trial mode, to have more options for vaccinations, especially in case of infection by mutant strains,” he summed up.

Dr V K Nagpal, Medical Superintendent, Joint Director, Health, GMSH 16 noted that the number of cases have seen a steady decline in the last one week, with the infection rate down.

“But if people are being tested positive, it means that the virus is still active, but in Chandigarh the infection rate has fallen and it is better than the national average. With winter, the movement of people outdoors is less and that contributes to the spread of infection, with many people now also following Covid appropriate behaviour,” explained Dr Nagpal, adding that Chandigarh so far has not seen any case of the new strain.

With the vaccine now in the rollout stage, he said that we can hope there won’t be another wave.

“We have to remember that the first shot of the vaccine won’t give the immunity desired, it’s only after the second dose that our immunity levels will go up, but not 100 per cent. Several studies need to be done to understand the efficacy and impact,” added Dr Nagpal.

Dr Sonu Goel, Professor, Department of Community Medicine & School of Public Health, PGIMER, Chandigarh said that in the last two weeks there has been a decrease in cases, but it won’t be right to say it is highly significant. “We don’t know much about the new strain, so our effort must be not to spread infection, take precautions and not to get casual by thinking it is the end of the pandemic. After the winter, we can hope for a further decline in cases and as far as the new strain, we don’t know about it, and more studies are awaited,” summed up Dr Sonu.

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