India's 'R-Value' is inching up, and it's a cause of concern, AIIMS Chief Dr Randeep Guleria told NDTV on Saturday, stressing on the need of aggressive containment strategies in the parts of the country that are witnessing a surge in fresh Covid infections. His remarks come amid concern over a third wave.
"Starting from .96, and going all the way up to 1, the rise in R-Value is a cause of concern. Simply put, this means that the chances of infection spreading from a person, who has Covid, to others have gone up. The areas which are witnessing this surge should bring in restrictions and employ "test, track, and treat" strategy to break the chain of transmission," Dr Guleria explained. The R-Factor is an indicator of the effective reproductive number of a virus.
India on Friday recorded 44,230 fresh infections, the highest single-day surge in three weeks. The fresh spike in cases has been worrying in Kerala and some northeastern states. Forty-six districts in the country have a positivity rate of more than 10 per cent, the government said on Saturday.
This week, reports quoting the US health authority - the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - said that Delta variant of the coronavirus may cause more severe illness than all other known versions of the virus and spread as easily as chickenpox.
Explaining this, Dr Guleria said: "Measles or chicken pox used to have R factor of 8 or more, which means one person could infect eight others. That suggests that coronavirus is highly infectious. We saw that during the second wave in India, because entire families were getting infected. This happens with chicken pox also. In a similar manner, when one person has Delta variant, the whole family is vulnerable."
With a large majority of fresh Covid cases coming from Kerala, there's a need to evaluate the surge in infections, Dr Guleria further stressed. "In the beginning, Kerala had set a precedent for others by managing the pandemic well. They also had an aggressive vaccination drive. Yet despite that, are witnessing a spike in a way that's different from other parts of the country. This needs to be evaluated. Also, is there a variant behind the surge? Are containment strategies being aggressively followed - all this needs to be evaluated," the AIIMS chief explained.
Neighbouring states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu also need to adopt aggressive testing strategy to break the chain of transmission, he added.
In Tamil Nadu, 66 per cent of people have developed anti-bodies, a recent serosurvey showed. Yet the state has been witnessing a spike. The sero surveys, however, are not an indicator of herd immunity, Dr Guleria explained. "In Brazil, similar survey from a city showed 70 per cent of population had antibodies. Yet there was a huge outbreak. We really don't know what's the cut-off in such cases, and also the antibodies gradually decrease over a period of time. It, however, shows that the chances of serious infections are lesser. For instance in Kerala, and the UK, people are getting infected, they may be spreading to others but they are not getting serious infection," he said.
India has logged over 3.16 crore cases so far, and 4.23 lakh people have died due to Covid.