Sero Survey: India still needs to be alert on COVID-19

As the economy gets fully open and the number of new cases of novel corona virus records a steep fall, a sense of complacency is visible in the streets. But the findings of the third serological survey released by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) reveal the fact that India is still vulnerable.

According to the third sero survey conducted during December 2020, 21.5 percent of Indians are already infected by the COVID-19. This means that the virus had already infected nearly 27 crore Indians, while the confirmed cases through testing stood at one crore.

Several epidemiologists have been telling us that at least 60 to 70 percent of the population should either be infected by the virus or vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. The chain of transmission will be broken once the nation reaches herd immunity. Studies also reveal that a substantial section of the population may not ever get infected despite pandemic. Scientists call it immunological black matter. However, estimates on herd immunity continue to vary. The findings of the serological survey validate the assumption that COVID-19 in India is on a decline unless there is a second wave.

The number of Indians infected by the virus has increased by 30 fold as compared to the first sero survey done in May and three-fold compared to the second survey conducted in August 2020.

Coupled with the findings of the third sero survey and the commencement of the second phase of immunisation, India should certainly be relieved of the fact that COVID-19 may no longer be a serious public health challenge in near future.

However, the findings of the sero survey wherein one in five Indians are already infected will only reveal the fact that a large number of Indians could still be vulnerable to the pandemic with varying degrees of intensity. Therefore, there is no room for complacency either in vaccination drive or taking preventive measures like wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance, etc. This is more so as pandemic may prove to be resurgent. Experiences of several countries including the US, UK, etc, have validated these fears. Therefore, India needs to be continuously on guard to ensure a comprehensive and final victory in our fight over the deadly pandemic.

-By Prof K Nageshwar

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