Even as Centre cites caseloads over the last fortnight to signal that 18 states are recording a plateauing of fresh Covid infections and active nationwide cases have dropped for the third day in succession, this second wave could be amidst us for several weeks. Nearly 3.5 lakh fresh infections were detected on Wednesday, which is nearly four times the peak of the first wave in mid-September. So the plateauing isn’t really cause for too much relief. Moreover, there is undeniable evidence that the virus is spreading in rural areas of the country.
Given the lower population density in rural areas, this could be a slow but sustained spread. So the second wave could last longer; the high caseloads and greater contagiousness also suggest continued exposure of more people to the virus. The rising death toll is a sign that healthcare facilities are struggling to deal with patient load. ICMR’s go-ahead for rapid antigen testing recognises the realities of a Covid spread in rural areas.
But the supply of RAT kits must also be accompanied by a proportionate increase in medical supplies so that those testing positive get emergency medical attention. A medical strategy to address the needs of rural India doesn’t appear to have been set in motion. Failure to do so will see the same phenomenon of cities being taken by surprise in April repeating in rural areas, but with far greater consequences.
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