India has reported over 70 lakh Covid cases so far, of which 1.08 lakh are deaths (File)
The coronavirus will take advantage of us if we do not follow social distancing norms during the forthcoming holiday season, the government said Tuesday in a warning to the public ahead of weeks of festivals and winter holidays. During today's press briefing on the Covid situation the government also referred to a "stabilisation" of trends, pointing to a "constant downward trend" in the positivity rate.
"Virus ko acha lagta hai jab hum ikhatte hote hain. Woh iska faayda uthata hai (The virus is happy when we crowd together. It takes advantage of this)," Dr VK Paul, a member of government think-tank Niti Aayog said during a Health Ministry briefing.
The government today also urged the public to wear face masks (and make sure it covers the mouth and nose) when venturing into public spaces and to wash and sanitise hands frequently, reminding people that the COVID-19 virus is likely to "thrive" during the coming winter season.
"This is a time for festivals and we tend to socialise. Virus ko acha lagta hai jab hum ikhatte hote hain. Woh iska faayda uthata hai (The virus is happy when we crowd together. It takes advantage of this). Festivals should not become superspreader events," Dr Paul cautioned.
"... there is a chance the pandemic may become worse in winter. It is a respiratory virus that thrives in winter; even influenza pandemics have a history of becoming worse in winter. So precautions will have to increase," he added.
The warning on following Covid protocol is a repeat of what Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said on Sunday; the minister advised against congregating in large numbers for festivals, saying: "No religious leaders of any religion say that festivals should be celebrated by putting lives in danger".
He too said the virus could become stronger in the winter.
India has reported a "constant downward trend" in the positivity rate - the percentage of tests that return a positive result - the government also said today.
Data from the health ministry shows that the average weekly positivity rate fell from 9.21 per cent (September 16-22) to 6.24 per cent (October 7-13). In the preceding 24 hours it was even lower - 5.16 per cent - the government said.
In the same period there was also a decline in average weekly new cases - from an average of 92,830 cases per day (September 9-15) to 70,114 new cases per day (October 7-13).
This morning India reported 55,342 new cases - the first time since August 18 that daily new cases were around the 55,000-mark.
The government today hailed the declining trend as a "stabilisation… a plateau that seems to have been reached with everybody's efforts".
India now has 8.38 lakh active cases, which compares favourably to the around 10 lakh active cases present in September. The declining trend appears "consistent", the government said, pointing to the fact that this figure was below the nine lakh-mark for the fifth straight day.
Overall, the country has reported 71.7 lakh cases so far (India is now only seven lakh cases behind the United States, the worst-hit nation). Of the total cases, 1.08 lakh are deaths linked to the virus.