India has still not yet recovered from the devastating effect of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the daily number of active cases nationally is declining gradually, it is still not clear whether this wave has run its course.
However, there are warnings from various quarters that a third wave could hit India.
Let’s see what experts have to say about the possibility of the third wave, and what can be done to prevent it.
What is a Wave in a Pandemic?
The term “wave” is used to describe the trend of a rise and fall in the number of infections over a specific period of time. If you have seen the graph of the COVID-19 growth curve in India over a few months, it resembles the shape of a wave.
Several viral infections are seasonal in nature, and historically, the term “wave” was used to refer to the seasonality of an infection, or how their numbers rise, come down, and then rise again.
In India, there have been two distinct COVID-19 waves, the first in August 2020 and the second in March 2021, separated by a long period of low number of cases. If the number of daily cases recorded continues to fall and reaches the numbers seen before the second wave had started, it could be regarded as the end of the second wave.
Then, after some time, if there is a fresh surge in the number of cases that continues for a few weeks or months, it would get classified as the third wave.
What do Experts Say About The Third Wave of Coronavirus?
Three scientists, who were earlier members of an expert panel set up by the Department of Science and Technology under the Government of India, have come up with the “SUTRA” model.
The model stands for the “Susceptible, Undetected, Tested (positive), and Removed Approach” and studies the trajectory of the pandemic in India.
According to this model, the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India is projected to decline by July 2021. The model has also projected that the third wave of the pandemic is expected in about 6 to 8 months from now.
However, scientists believe that the impact of the third wave could be subdued due to the increasing number of vaccinated people in the country.
Prof K Vijay Raghavan, the principal scientific advisor to the Government, has stated that if strong measures are taken, the third wave of the pandemic may not be seen in India.
Will Children Be Affected More in The Third Wave?
The first wave of the pandemic saw the elderly and those with comorbidities being primarily affected. In the second wave of the pandemic, those without comorbidities and many from the younger age group (30 to 45 years) got the COVID-19 infection. Some children were also affected during the second wave.
As there are no COVID-19 vaccines in India for children yet, they are at an increased risk of exposure to the infection. As per the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP), if COVID-19 appropriate behaviour is not followed after the second wave is over, and if the third wave occurs, it may affect the non-immune individuals, including children.
However, the latest serosurvey (studies to check the presence of antibodies against an infection in a population) results of Dec 2020, Jan 2021 suggest that while children are being infected like adults, they usually do not develop the severe form of COVID-19. Almost 90% of infections in children are asymptomatic or mild.
Children are being less affected by the Coronavirus due to how their immune systems work and the lesser expression of specific receptors to which the virus binds to enter the host.
AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria has said there is not enough evidence to suggest that the third wave is going to affect children predominantly. The IAP also has similar views.
However, Niti Aayog member Dr VK Paul has said that since children can get infected and spread the infection to others, efforts must be made to not allow children to become a part of the transmission chain.
As per the data available from the first and second wave, even severe COVID-19 infections in children are less likely to require ICU admissions. However, the mutant strains need to be carefully watched out for their effect.
Third wave or no third wave, it is important that people do not become complacent with the number of cases falling every day.
Get yourself vaccinated if you are eligible, continue to double mask and maintain social distancing, and follow respiratory and hand hygiene practices. Stay home and stay safe!
1. Csir.res.in. 2021. 'Second and third waves will be more intense' | Council of Scientific & Industrial Research | CSIR | GoI. [online] Available at: <https://www.csir.res.in/slider/second-and-third-waves-will-be-more-intense> [Accessed 1 June 2021].
2. Iapindia.org. 2021. Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) | IAP Viewpoint on the Third Wave of COVID-19 in India. [online] Available at: <https://iapindia.org/news.php?news=50&title=IAP_Viewpoint_on_the_Third_Wave_of_COVID-19_in_India> [Accessed 4 June 2021].
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