Though the rate of growth is not as steep as it was during the peak of pandemic, nevertheless the cases have been steadily rising since the last seven days.
From February 7-14, the country reported 77,284 cases. In the following week (February 15-21), more than 1 lakh cases were recorded — 31% higher than the preceding week.
The spike was led by Maharashtra, which saw an 81% week-on-week rise in recorded infections.
The state contributed over 41% of the total cases reported in the country in the third week of this month. In the previous two weeks, the cases from Maharashtra constituted nearly a quarter of the total cases in the country.
Is the new strain behind the recent spur in cases in Maharashtra?
The presence of a new more transmissible strain of Covid-19 virus in Amravati was first reported on February 18.
The presence of the new strain has coincided with a surge in the number of cases in Amravati and surrounding districts.
On February 7, Amravati district reported more than 300 cases for the first time since September. The cases have consistently risen since then. On February 21, the city reported 1,055 cases. At one centre in the city, 350 out of 700 samples tested positive.
The Amravati division consists of five districts — Akola, Amravati, Buldana, Yavatmal and Washim. All five districts reported a high number of cases during the last couple of weeks.
Dr Subhash Salunkhe, an adviser to the state government, said that he feared that the spread could be from Nagpur to Aurangabad.
A look at the daily number of cases in each of the 36 districts of the state revealed that at least 16 districts have shown a sharp rise in the number of cases in the last couple of weeks. All these districts are either a part of the Amravati division or share their borders with the districts of Amravati division.
The latest rise in cases in all these 16 districts started in the second or third week of February — around the time when the presence of the new strain was reported.
Four districts — Pune, Mumbai Suburban, Mumbai City and Ratnagiri — also reported high number of cases in last couple of weeks. These districts, as can be seen in the above map, do not share geographical boundary with the rest of the 13 districts that have reported a rise in cases.
Flouting of Covid norms led to a rise in cases
It is feared that lax restrictions and a disregard for the Covid-19 guidelines have led to the recent spur in the number of cases.
Taking a quick note of the rising number of cases, the administration has introduced stricter guidelines for the movement of people. On February 22, the district administration of Amravati introduced a week-long curfew. Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray warned the people that he would be forced to introduce a lockdown if Covid norms are not followed.
“The new slogan ‘I am responsible’ conveys that people must be responsible for themselves. People must make sure that they are wearing a mask, keeping social distancing and washing their hands,” Thackeray said in a video address.