COVID-19 third wave



  • India is witnessing a softening of the second wave. Nonetheless, the anticipation of the 3rd wave is quite high. Therefore, it is imperative for India to focus on reducing the reproduction number (R).


  • India witnessed a brutal impact of the second wave of the pandemic in May 2021, with cases crossing the 4-lakh mark in one day.
  • The situation has now eased, and the number of cases has come down below the 1.5 lakh mark. The second wave appears to be abating due to a reduced reproduction number.

Reproduction number (R):

  • It refers to the average number of new infections arising from one infected individual.
  • R greater than 1 implies that infected individuals infect more than one person on average, and we observe increasing cases. When it is less than 1, cases are declining.
  • It is dependent on Four Factors, summarised by the acronym DOTS: 
    • Duration a person is infectious 
    • Opportunities for infected individuals to spread the infection to others; 
    • The probability of Transmission of infection if given an opportunity.
    • The average Susceptibility of a population or subpopulation 


Downward Trajectory of Second Wave:

  • The decline is mainly caused by a decrease in urban cases while the rural cases are still on the rise as shown by the 14-day moving average of the top 20 districts.
  • The percentage of daily new cases from rural areas is still at 52.8 percent. A high prevalence of cases in the rural area indicates that:
  • The GDP loss due to the current wave will be much lower than that in the first wave. This is because these rural districts account for a lower share of economic activity.
  • There is also a subtle change in India’s vaccination policy. Now India is prioritising people receiving the first dose.
  • This would bring down the magnitude of serious cases in the country and ensure better preparation for the 3rd wave.


  • The government must build well-designed seroprevalence surveys to understand how much of the population remains susceptible and where they reside. These should accommodate the complexities of new variants and the occurrence of reinfections.
  • The focus should be on increased use of face masks and improved ventilation for reducing the transmission. The country can learn from the Bangladesh model in which the distribution of free masks coupled with community monitors delivered positive results.
  • Temporary solutions like lockdowns and a ban on mass gatherings should be used to focus on slowing the transmission rate.
  • The magnitude of the susceptible population can be brought down by substantially increasing the immunisation coverage. Currently, only 3% of the population has received both doses.

The isolation and quarantining guidelines should

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