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India is witnessing a spike in Covid infections, the most sustained surge in cases since the pandemic peaked in September last year.
India has recorded 13,742 new cases and 104 fresh deaths in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said on Wednesday. In the past week, the number of cases has risen by an average of 1,800 a day.
India had been witnessing a decrease in cases earlier this year with some predicting an end to the pandemic and pointing to megacities such as Delhi reaching herd immunity.
However, in recent days those predictions have looked premature. The states of Maharashtra in the west, whose capital is Mumbai, and Kerala in the south are now the epicentres of the pandemic, accounting for 75 per cent of active cases.
The government has warned 10 states, where there has been a rise in daily cases alongside a drop in Covid-19 testing, that slacking off on restrictions and surveillance measures will escalate the crisis.
In Mumbai and the state of Maharashtra all religious, social and political gatherings have been banned.
The reasons behind the surge are still unclear and experts have been dispatched to investigate. Health officials in the worst-hit states have also been asked to speed up vaccination campaigns, increase PCR testing and carry out contact-tracing of all positive cases.
“Over the past few days, a rising trend of Covid-19 cases and positivity has been observed…Hence it is advised to expedite the vaccination of healthcare and frontline workers to confer immunity in the shortest possible time-frame,” the health ministry said in a letter to the state of Madhya Pradesh.
Health officials said there was no evidence to suggest that the current surge is being driven by new variants of the virus that have been identified in recent weeks.
Sujeet Kumar Singh, director of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), told the Telegraph more than 6,000 variants of the virus have been recorded in India.
“It needs a scientifically planned study to conclude how much can be attributed to the new mutants for the fresh rise in the cases. We are conducting the genomic analysis of the samples from all the districts where rise has been reported,” Dr Singh said.
“There is still a huge susceptible population and whenever they get exposed to the coronavirus they will get Covid," he added.
The rise in cases comes amid concerns that India is falling behind on its target to vaccinate 300 million people by July. While the country has administered 12 million doses so far it has a huge population to cover. Figures reveal that India is seeing a steep fall in vaccinations at the weekend due to the closure of most public facilities.
On Saturday February 14 and 21 - both Sundays - India only administered 21,437 and 31,681 doses respectively, while during the weekdays the numbers have been hitting around 400,000.
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