Indians are using the third wave predictions to plan vacations

Inviting trouble.
Inviting trouble.
Image: REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
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A number of mathematical models have predicted a timeline for the third wave of Covid-19 in India, and this has likely had several unintended consequences.

A prediction from the State Bank of India (SBI) published on July 5 has projected that the third wave will likely begin in August and peak by September. In May, India’s principal scientific advisor K Vijay Raghavan had said that a third wave was “inevitable.” Since then, various studies have made similar predictions based on observing past pandemic trends in the country and the behaviour of viruses.

While these models may be useful for governments and policymakers to watch out for signs of rising Covid-19 infections—and escalate healthcare systems accordingly—its imminence has taken away the focus from India’s ongoing second wave.

For instance, residents of northern Indian cities like Delhi, where the second wave caused unprecedented levels of devastation, are out on vacation at popular hill stations like Manali and Shimla. Locals in Himalayan states like Himachal Pradesh fear that because of this tourism-led overcrowding the surge in Covid-19 cases could be higher than what is being officially reported. Local residents told India Today that tourists disregard Covid-safe norms and do not follow mask mandates.

This is particularly alarming given that India’s second wave of Covid-19 has not ended and India is still recording over 45,000 new cases every day. The Indian government, too, has responded to the latest third wave prediction with a view that the real challenge is to contain cases, whenever they begin to rise. “Instead of saying X study told this, Y study told this, what is critical is containing the infection whenever there is any surge in any part of the country,” Lav Agarwal, a joint secretary at the health ministry, said during a press conference on July 6 about SBI’s prediction.

Scientists studying the pandemic believe that there is no reason to think that a third wave is imminent, or the cases could rise even further. These predictions, for the most part, are only meant for policymakers and the healthcare sector to plan infrastructure.