The coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19, as it is popularly known, was first discovered in Wuhan, China. From there, the infection spread to the rest of the world due to migration and travel.
The Outbreak Of COVID-19 In India
The first cases of COVID-19 in India were reported on 30 January 2020 in the towns of Thrissur, Alappuzha, and Kasargod, all in Kerala, among three Indian medical students who had returned from Wuhan.
Witnessing a surge in the number of cases, a nationwide lockdown was announced on 25 March 2020. By mid-May 2020, five cities accounted for around half of all reported cases in the country: Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Chennai, and Thane.
The recoveries exceeded the number of active cases, and there was a drop in infection rate by September 2020.
First Wave Vs Second Wave
Let’s compare and analyze the impact, reasons, and spread of COVID-19 in India in the two waves of the pandemic:
- Active cases
India witnessed the peak of the first wave of coronavirus when it reported over 90,000 cases per day in mid-September, dropping to below 15,000 in January 2021.
The second wave of the pandemic started in March 2021, with more active cases than the first wave.
India witnessed the peak of the second wave in April 2021, when it became the first country in the world to report over 400,000 new cases in 24 hours.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the older population of people aged above 40 years are more vulnerable to coronavirus than the younger population.
The Director-General of ICMR, Dr. Balram Bhargava, said, “More than 70 percent patients in both waves are more than 40 years old, only marginally higher proportion of younger patients,” after conducting a study of 1,885 patients in the second wave and 7,600 patients in the first wave.
The average age of patients admitted in hospitals in the first wave was 50, and it is 49 this year.
He said that only a marginally higher proportion in the younger age group was affected despite the opening up of various activities.
The age group of 0-19 formed 5.8 percent of infected patients in the second wave against 4.2 percent in the first, while the age group of 20-39 constituted 25.5 percent in the second wave compared to 23.7 percent in the first.
India began its vaccination drive for frontline workers and people aged above 45 years in January 2021, during the first wave.
While to combat the second wave, India extended its vaccination program to all the adult population, aged above 18 years, from May 1.
In addition to Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech and COVIDSHIELD, developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca, Sputnik-V vaccine, developed by Russia, has also been granted approval by the Drug Controller General Of India (DCGI) for emergency use in Indian hospitals in the second wave.
- Severity Of Symptoms
According to Dr. Bhargava, the severity of symptoms is less in the second wave than in the first.
In the first wave, there were more cases of symptoms ranging from dry cough, headache, and joint pain while there are more asymptomatic cases in the second wave of the pandemic.
About 74.5 percent of corona patients were symptomatic at hospitalization in the second wave compared to 87.4 percent in the first.
There are more cases of breathlessness, oxygen shortage, and lung infection due to the virus in this wave than last year.
Dr. Bhargava said, “Shortness of breath was found to be slightly higher in the second wave. The deaths did not show any difference: it was 9.6 percent (first wave) versus 9.7 percent (second wave) of hospitalized patients.”
He also highlighted that the requirement of oxygen was significantly higher in the second wave at 54.5 percent compared to 41.1 percent in the first.
- Spread and concentration of COVID-19
The first wave of COVID-19 had a widespread reach impacting geographical hotspots all over the country, while the second wave is more infectious but it has impacted limited hotspots.
The Lancet COVID-19 Commission by India Task Force members has highlighted that while over 40 districts reported 50 percent of all COVID-19 cases in India in the first wave, only 20 are currently reporting half the coronavirus infections.
In the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic in August-September 2020, 60-100 districts reported 75 percent of the cases in India. While only 20-40 districts reported 75 percent of all cases in the second wave.
- The emergence of new symptoms and black fungus
Symptoms like fever, chills, body ache, loss of smell and taste, and loss of breath or respiratory complications have remained the same in both waves.
However, the second wave of COVID-19 also witnessed the emergence of new symptoms including pink eyes, loose motions, and hearing impairment, which were not reported during the first wave.
Moreover, “black fungus” or mucormycosis, a serious condition that causes blurred or double vision, chest pain, and breathing difficulties has also been reported in the COVID-19 patients in the second wave.
- Reasons behind the rapid surge
According to the Centre, there are three main reasons behind the rapid surge in active cases:
- Lack of adherence to COVID-19 guidelines: wearing masks, social distancing, and sanitizing.
- Pandemic fatigue
- Lack of effective implementation of containment measures at the field level.
Festivals, functions, and election rallies by politicians and the inefficient healthcare system are also blamed for the worsening of the situation and sharp rise in the cases in the second wave of the pandemic.
By analyzing all the factors, it can be concluded that the second wave of coronavirus proved to be more devastating than the first wave in India.
With the increasing cases, new symptoms, and dearth of urgent medical facilities, India is fighting the second wave of the pandemic and gearing up for the third wave, which can hit India after 3-5 months, after the end of the second wave in July.
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