Although there has been a marked slowdown in the new COVID-19 cases reported daily, experts say it is too early to heave a sigh of relief. The threat of a second wave still persists and the next four weeks are crucial, they say.
While a second wave was expected in January, Karnataka has so far not seen a new outbreak. But, this does not mean that there will not be another surge in cases. Especially with cinema halls now permitted to function with 100% seating capacity and swimming pools and educational institutions opened, there are possibilities of the State witnessing super spreader events if COVID-19 protocol is not followed, experts say. However, the intensity of a second wave may not be the same as the initial outbreak, they said.
M.K. Sudharshan, chairman, State’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), said, “While cinema halls, swimming pools and educational institutions have been opened, movement of students from Kerala, where the situation has gone out of control, is also a concern. We will have to wait and watch for the next four weeks. The TAC will review the situation by the end of this month.”
Students from Kerala
“We have noticed that the Test Positivity Rate (TPR) of 6.8% is reported in RT-PCR tests done in four nursing institutions and two engineering institutions in Mangaluru since December 25. This is very high as compared to the State average TPR of less than 1%. It is pertinent here to note that the majority of the students testing positive are from Kerala,” he said.
The TAC chairman said the State will now do genome sequencing of the samples of students from Kerala to check for a new variant. “We want to ensure that Kerala’s spill over in Karnataka does not trigger cluster outbreaks. From now, a RT-PCR negative test report that is not older than 72 hours is compulsory for students coming from Kerala. People should not become complacent and continue to follow COVID-19 precautions,” he said.
TAC member Giridhara R. Babu, who heads Lifecourse Epidemiology at the Indian Institute of Public Health, said Kerala has been seeing multiple outbreaks in the schools that opened up. “The recommendations of the TAC are always cautiously optimistic. The implementation of these recommendations has not been uniform. However, due to the combined approach of the technical advice and great implementation, Karnataka has delayed the onset of a second wave. If everything is opened up without any caution, we may have the second wave in the next three-four weeks,” he said..
C.N. Manjunath, nodal officer for labs and testing in the State’s COVID-19 expert committee, said that even if there is a second wave, it may not be as severe as the initial outbreak.
“Although there was a fear of a surge in cases during gram panchayat elections, bypolls and several large protest gatherings, it did not happen. But, it does not mean the crisis is over. Hopefully if we continue to maintain the low prevalence rate for the next three to four months, we can have a sigh of relief. By then a sizeable chunk of the population will also be vaccinated,” Dr. Manjunath added.