The Principal Scientific Advisor to the Union government said that the second wave is seeing a ‘fitter virus’ that arose due to increased immunity in the population.

People stand near oxygen cylinders as demand for the gas rises due to a spike in coronavirus casesPTI representative
news COVID-19 Wednesday, May 05, 2021 - 18:57

A third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is inevitable, officials of the Union government told the media on Wednesday, May 5. K Vijay Raghavan, the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Union government said that the second wave is seeing a ‘fitter virus’ that arose due to increased immunity due to previous infections. The health official was speaking about the current situation in the country, how the virus and the variants work, and the possible way ahead for India.

“So where does SARS-COV-2 go from here? A phase three is inevitable, given the high levels of circulating virus, but it is not clear on what time scale this phase three will occur. Hopefully, incrementally, but we should prepare for new waves. Previous infections and vaccines will cause adaptive pressure on the virus, for new kinds of changes that try to escape and therefore we should be prepared scientifically to take care of that," Vijay Raghavan said.

Speaking at the weekly media briefing held on the COVID-19 situation in the country, K Raghavan said that in early 2021, something changed rather importantly in the virus.  A very large number of people have been infected and as immunity increases, the virus does not have an opportunity to go anywhere and infect people. But the virus sees that there are pockets that it can go through and therefore, what happened was that through natural selection, the selection advantage was for it to become more efficient in transmission.


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"Phase one was a generalist approach and phase two has fitter viruses arising out of increased host immunity due to previous infections. We must keep in mind that variations of concern represent better adaptation to humans and are triggered by the human population. So everything that we can do to prevent the virus transmissibility is very critical,” he said.

The health official added that earlier, the virus had a different ‘generalist’ approach — of infecting people where they were largely asymptomatic but many symptomatic, and the virus had a certain profile of progression. “Now, because of fewer people available, the virus has adopted a hit and run lifestyle, and this is what has happened with the new variants,” adding that these variants do not affect the immune system and nor are they vaccine evasive.

Health Ministry officials present at the press conference also said that this long COVID-19 wave of such "ferocity" that the country was experiencing currently "was not predicted.” The officials emphasized that wearing face masks following physical distancing works against variants too and asked people to get vaccinated as early as possible. 

Watch K Vijay Raghavan, the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Union government, explaining the variants found in the second wave and what caused them: 

 

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