Shekhar C Mande, Director-General, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), on Sunday spoke at a virtual lecture where he warned that the COVID-19 crisis is far from over and the 3rd wave of the virus is going to be more threatening.

The CSIR Director-General was taking a virtual lecture on the topic of “India’s response to COVID-19 from S&T Perspective” at “National Science Day Lecturers”. He clarified that the nation is nowhere even close to achieving the so-called herd immunity and people should not let their guards down.

He urged people to continue wearing masks, maintain appropriate social-distancing and wash their hands to stay away from being infected. Mande cautioned people who were listening to him that against “complacency” to set in. Furthermore, he cautioned that the COVID-19 third wave may give the country a far more challenging situation than it had ever faced before.

According to Mande, the rise of COVID-19 cases had curbed by the end of the last year not because of any form of herd immunity, but because of other crucial factors. Indian masses were wearing masks and people remained outdoors during the winter. The COVID-19 virus remained suspended in the open air in the closed areas. This led to the virus losing its potency in the open areas. As the virus lost its potency, it helped a great deal in the spread being controlled during the winter. And for the same reason, the COVID-19 infection rate went out of control in the Western region of the country where people remained indoors for the most part during the winter season.

The CSIR Director also answered questions from persons belonging to the scientific community about the COVID-19 vaccines and their efficacy. According to Mande, the current COVID-19 vaccines are effective against most coronavirus virus strains. He expressed that the evidence that vaccines would not work against a mutated virus or a new strain is “not very strong”.

Mande said, “We would like to believe that the vaccines are effective against the variants as the vaccines worked against the entire part of the virus while the mutation took place on a part of the virus.”

The second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination drive initiated on March 1 amid a steep rise in the number of cases the country is registering. On Sunday, the daily cases tally climbed to a 29-day high of 16,572. According to the Union Health Ministry, the 6 big states- Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala- account for around 86% of the total new cases

Densely-populated Maharashtra has been reporting a concerning a number of cases every day. On Sunday, Maharashtra reported the highest daily new cases in the country (8,623). The city of Pune in Maharashtra after the state’s concern-worthy situation has decided to extend the on-going night curfew till March 14.

Besides the six big states, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana have also been displaying an upward trajectory in COVID-19 cases. Seeing how these states have been exhibiting an increase in cases, the cabinet secretary took a meeting on Saturday with states including Hyderabad, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir. In the meeting, the cabinet secretary urged the states to increase their rigorous vigilance in terms of curbing the spread of the virus.

The cabinet secretary also reiterated that the states should not let their guard down and lose all the collective hard work made in the last year. The states were also told to enforce the COVID norms stringently and deal with violations in a firm manner.

The Health Ministry gave a statement about the meeting saying, “Need for effective testing, comprehensive tracking, prompt isolation of positive cases and quick quarantine of close contacts were also strongly emphasized. The Centre has also deputed high-level multi-disciplinary teams to Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir to ascertain reasons for the surge.” The health ministry said that the teams will coordinate with the respective state health departments in Covid-19 control and containment measures.