The fact that the virus is still actively circulating in the country makes it possible. The relentless global spread of the Delta variant and the recent emergence of the Delta Plus variant (AY.1) indicates that the virus still retains the capacity to infect speedily while continuing to enhance its ability to do so through fresh mutations. With only around 20% of the adult population receiving a vaccine shot so far and around 4% fully vaccinated, there are many susceptible persons who are available for the virus to strike at. So, a third wave is possible.
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The fact that there are still several susceptible persons in the population does not mean that they should expose themselves to the virus and allow it to enter their bodies with ease. If such persons wear face masks, move or work in well-ventilated areas and avoid crowds, the risk of infection is greatly reduced. If most Indians observe that discipline till vaccination rates cross 60%, a third wave can be averted or greatly attenuated. We can make it a ripple rather than a tidal wave.
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Many will argue that this is unrealistic. People have pandemic fatigue, are tired of lockdowns and rearing to get back to a bustling lifestyle of uninhibited socialization, unrestricted travel, and unrestrained celebration. The decline of the second wave would be misinterpreted by many as an ‘all clear signal to assume normalcy and shed caution. Preventing super spreader gatherings may no longer be a priority for authorities, as the economic revival and electoral politics may take precedence. We saw that happen before the second wave. It can happen again, as subjective desires of people and politicians obscure the objective reality that the virus still has its pads on. The lull in virus transmission may be a short break in play and not the signal at the end of the match. Both prudent prevention and the counterfactual of castaway caution exist as possible patterns of public behavior.
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A recent study, by the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Imperial College at London, concluded that the third wave will be less devastating than the second wave. The conclusion is based on the plausible assumption that many who have been infected earlier would retain their immunity, fully or partially. The situation could change if new variants arrive which override the immunity provided by earlier infections. Even then, it is unlikely that the new variants will be more virulent. While they may infect more people, it is unlikely that they will cause more severe diseases.
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