- Third wave will certainly hit, not clear when: Top scientific adviser
- Vaccines will need to be updated to tackle new strains, said the official
- The Covid crisis has overwhelmed hospitals and left thousands dead
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"Phase 3 (third wave) is inevitable, given the high levels at which this virus is circulating. But it is not clear at what time scale this Phase 3 will occur," Dr K VijayRaghavan said at a government briefing.
Vaccines will need to be updated to tackle the new strains that are spreading the contagion fast, he said, adding that the current surge in infections seems to be because of the Indian "double mutant" coronavirus and the spread of the UK variant has slowed.
Asked if a nationwide lockdown was the only solution to contain the unprecedented rise in cases, NITI Aayog member and chief of the national expert group on vaccines VK Paul said, "...If anything more is required those options are always being discussed. There's already a guideline to states to impose restrictions to suppress chain of transmission."
Battered by a ferocious second wave of the coronavirus, India accounted for nearly half the cases reported worldwide last week, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, as COVID-19 deaths in the nation rose by a record 3,780 during the past 24 hours.
Daily infections rose by 3.82 lakh on Wednesday, health ministry data showed even though testing has slowed in many areas. The number has been in excess of 3 lakh every day for the past two weeks.
Hospitals are scrabbling for beds and oxygen as they desperately battle the deadly surge in infections, while morgues and crematoriums struggle to deal with a seemingly unstoppable flow of bodies. Many people have died in ambulances and car parks waiting for a bed or oxygen.
Medical experts say India's actual figures could be five to 10 times the official tallies. The country has added one crore cases in just over four months, after taking more than 10 months to reach its first crore.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has been widely criticised for not acting sooner to suppress the second wave, as religious festivals and political rallies drew tens of thousands of people to "super spreader" events.
The opposition has urged a nationwide lockdown, but the government has appeared reluctant to impose one for fear of the economic fallout, although several states have adopted social curbs.
India's surge in infections has coincided with a dramatic drop in vaccinations because of supply and delivery problems. At least three states, including Maharashtra, home to the commercial capital of Mumbai, have reported a scarcity of vaccines, shutting down some inoculation centres.