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3rd wave inevitable, but tough to predict when: Govt scientist

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on May 06, 2021

The emergence of variants, however, does not change “what we need to do”: K VijayRaghavan

A third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is inevitable given its widespread presence across the globe, but at what timescale it will occur cannot be predicted, said a top government scientist on Wednesday.

“Phase 3 of the pandemic is inevitable, given the high levels of the circulating virus, but what is not clear at present is the kind of timescale at which this phase 3 will occur,” K VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, said at a media briefing here.

Explaining the evolution of the SARS-CoV2 virus, VijayRagahavan said the virus, when it emerged, was a ‘generalist’ that could infect a variety of species; something like a “rough, crude key that can fit into many locks”.

But increased transmissibility and selection pressure made the virus more refined and specific. In other words, emergence of variants that are fitter, more infectious or at times capable of evading immune response or vaccines.

The emergence of such variants, however, does not change “what we need to do”, the geneticist said. “The variant doesn’t alter the message. It does not acquire a new mode of transmission. Covid-appropriate behaviour can actually help significantly,” VijayRaghavan said.

But he said variants were just one factor that contributed to the emergence of the second wave. The stringent restrictions initiated last year may have prevented large-scale immunity in the community as well as a drop in caution as the first wave ebbed, contributing to the second wave, the top scientist said.

Renu Swarup, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, said Indian scientists started sequencing the virus from infections picked up from sentinel sites set up in various geographical areas right from the beginning.

Towards the end of last year, it became a more concerted activity with the emergence of Variants of Concern like the UK and South African strains. “Genomic surveillance, however, does not have any significance unless it is correlated with clinical data,” Swarup said.

Sujeet Kumar Singh, Director, National Centre for Disease Control, said world over more than 13 lakh mutations of the SARS-CoV2 virus have been recorded, but only a handful are of clinical significance.

 

Published on May 05, 2021

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