Effects of recent elections and festivals on coronavirus pandemic in India will play out over the next week to 15 days, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said during an interaction with the media on COVID-19 amid a steady decline in the country's overall daily case count.
"We believe that effects of recent elections (in Bihar and elsewhere), Durga Puja, Diwali and other festivals are still to be played out in full. We have to keep watching new cases very carefully," he said cautioning people against letting their guard down despite "very low per million cases" in India.
In the last two days, India's COVID-19 daily case count dropped to an average of 30,000, government data released today showed after 4-week average of 48,000 daily cases.
"We are not reading too much into this (drop)," Mr Bhushan said, adding that weekly trends better reflected the pandemic's progress.
The dip in national numbers goes against weeks of warnings to remain Covid-cautious in view of winter, festival season and elections - Assembly polls in Bihar and bypolls across 11 states in the first week of November.
However, a steady case surge has been observed in West Bengal since Durga Puja, in Kerala since Onam and in Delhi for the past fortnight ahead of Diwali.
Bihar is also seeing a surge in cases as Covid-safe behaviour of wearing masks and social distancing was all but ignored during the recently concluded three-phase elections.
Aggressive campaigning in the state election had seen people - mostly without masks and almost never at a Covid-safe distance from each other - turn up in droves for political rallies sparking concern about COVID-19 cases in Bihar.
More than 24,000 COVID-19 cases have been recorded in the past month when case count increased from 2,03,060 on October 17 to 2,27,433 on November 16. The daily count count has also been on the rise.
Cases are likely to rise further after this Friday in view of Chhat puja, when lakhs of people turn up at ponds, rivers, sea front and pools to offer prayers to the Sun God.
"We will increase testing," Mr Bhushan said explaining that "hitting a plateau" merely shows that Covid cases were now outside the net.