01/5What do we know about the third COVID wave right now?
There's a lot of speculation about what a possible third wave would look like, and when it would strike. While the Delta variant was responsible for causing massive devastation and imposed a lot of pressure on the healthcare sector, many fear that the third wave could see a resurgence of the same, if preparations aren't made.
At this point, the Delta variant continues to be a dominating threat in India, and across the world too. At the same time, what we are also seeing is a turnaround in vaccination numbers- with more and more people getting vaccinated, and a high rate of exposure from the previous wave fueled by Delta, we are looking at a scenario where a lot many would be possibly immunized from the Delta variant.
If newer variants aren't going to emerge, could we still think of a possible third COVID wave to be just as deadly and threatening? Could the third wave be still severe enough like the third wave? We discuss..
02/5How likely is the third wave of COVID to arrive? When could cases peak?
A virus wave is said to emerge after a likely surpassing of time post the previous wave, and immunity. While the second COVID wave peaked around the end of May and June, experts have predicted that a third COVID wave, which is likely inevitable in ways could come up 8-12 weeks following the second wave, meaning that we could see a surge in cases around the current months, i.e. September-October. Any new cases recorded, which mark a steady uptick from average daily records, coupled with a rising R- number could imply that what we are seeing is a third wave rise up. While the rise in cases may not remain uniform throughout states, it has been said that some states, like Maharashtra are already seeing emergence of a third wave.
03/5What could decide the severity of intensity of the third wave?
While it has been said that the third COVID wave could strike in the coming weeks, what we do not have knowledge about is the actual intensity, or severity of the third wave. However, what we do know is that the two factors which could predict the surge witnessed during the second wave are vaccination, and variant(s) in circulation.
Vaccination remains one crucial factor which could decide the severity of the wave. If we have enough people who have some level of protective immunity against the virus, we would see the disease take possibly milder forms. With more vaccinations, it could also become less easy for the virus to transmit and spread. Right now, we are staring at a scenario where full-vaccination coverage is in double digits, while at least 50% of the eligible population has received at least a single vaccine dose. Thus, the faster we can speed up full vaccination, the less severe a third wave could be.
The other factor we need to take into consideration is the presence of variants. While the Delta variant continues to pose an active threat, experts also say that the variants of the virus, which have superior abilities to surpass important immune defences could cause infections, reinfections and breakthrough cases would lead to the virus wave taking a nastier wave.
04/5Has Delta variant peaked in India? Could the 3rd wave be still bad if there are no new variants discovered?
Even though there's sporadic outbreaks of cases in states across the country, there's some evidence to support that the Delta variant, might have peaked in India, and with a stabilized R-number, the pandemic is showing signs of slowing down into an endemic, i.e. there may not be a steady rise in new cases, but only a little rise or controlled outbreaks reported. This is what we have been witnessing across the country. If the situation remains the same, it could so happen that the third wave, even if it comes up, could probably be less severe and intense than earlier threatening predictions. If newer variants and mutations do not pose an active threat, there may be signs that the third wave could record a very low rise in cases.
05/5What else should we know?
Having mentioned this, it's also important to understand that the intensity of the third, or any possible COVID fueled wave depends on the pace of vaccination, variants in circulation, how effectively they are controlled, and more significantly, the individual factors which need to be appropriately maintained.
Lax measures or precautions, from improper masking, lack of distancing, crowding to poor diligence to importance of vaccinations, we could possibly see more infections coming up, and have a higher prevalence of virus carriers who could spread the virus onto others. Therefore, apart from the vaccines and variants, it's also crucial to count other factors, to effectively stabilize and control the rate of viral spread.