India’s COVID-19 first wave vs second wave: Low mortality rate but high hospitalisation

Health expert weighs in on the difference between the first wave and second wave of Coronavirus.
India’s COVID-19 first wave vs second wave: Low mortality rate but high hospitalisation
India breached the one lakh mark for the first time in the daily new COVID-19 cases tally on April 5Giphy

India is witnessing a sharp surge in COVID-19 cases with more than 10 lakh active cases in the country right now. After five months of continuous decline in coronavirus infections, the second wave of coronavirus hit the country in March. India has seen a rapid increase in the number of new cases in just one month. Currently, the virus is spreading rapidly throughout the country with as many as 12 states reporting a high number of cases. As the second wave rages, India has added more than one lakh cases to the active cases tally in just the last three days.

On April 5, India breached the one lakh mark for the first time in the daily new COVID-19 cases tally as it recorded 1,03,558 new infections. Just one month back, the daily count of cases was less than 20,000. One of the most prominent features of this second wave is the rapid speed at which the infections have grown. It just took a month for the cases to rise from 18k to 1 lakh in the second wave. However, during the first wave, it took 76 days for the cases to rise from 20,142 to 97,655.

“The numbers we are witnessing currently at the national level, are more than the cases we experienced in the first wave. In the second wave the number of cases has increased so drastically in just a few weeks,” explained Dr Abdul Ghafur, infectious diseases consultant, Apollo Hospital, Chennai.

He said that the biggest divergence between the two waves is that there is less panic during the current wave of coronavirus. “There is a big difference between the first wave and second wave. There is no panic during the second wave. We have facilities and experience. During the first wave, we were not aware of what Covid-19 is. We didn’t know how to treat the patients. We were all panicky. Hospitals were panicky, Patients were panicky.”

The rapid surge in the last few weeks has also led to a high number of hospitalisation among people. There has been an increase in patients on oxygen support in the last couple of weeks. According to Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, there are currently 4.5 cases of active cases on oxygen support out of which 2.3% are in ICU and 0.4% cases are on the ventilator. If we compare this number to the first surge during last August in the first wave, 2.4 per cent of active cases were on oxygen support.

In terms of the number of deaths, the fatalities have remained comparatively lower than what was seen in the first wave. According to the Ministry of Health and Family Health Welfare, the mortality rate stands at 1.30 percent on 7 April 2021, which is much lower than the first wave in September. This could be attributed to our better preparedness and experience of the first wave.

“Mortality rate is usually higher in elderly but now with the better experience, the overall morality could have come down. So people attend the hospital early. There are early identification and early treatment. So probably we are saving more elderly and also elderly are much more careful. Younger people have become bolder and more exposed. We are taking care of the elderly in a much better. Also now we are early able to detect or identify more people with the covid symptoms” said Dr Ghafur.

On the cause behind the second wave, Dr Abdul Ghafur said non-compliance with COVID-19-related public health measures among people. “The only reason behind the second wave is lack of compliance with the covid safety norms by the public. We took Covid so lightly. So naturally, when you let down the guard, the number of people cases will increase. There is also a possibility that mutation could have become more contagious but we can’t just blame it on the virus. The main reason behind the surge in the number of cases is that we have become complacent and that why is the virus is spreading.

Right now, India is witnessing an unprecedented surge in the number of daily-new cases. On Friday, the country recorded 1,45, 384 new cases, the highest single-day surge since the pandemic hit the country.

India breached the one lakh mark for the first time in the daily new COVID-19 cases tally on April 5
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