Experts warn about high risk of COVID-19 transmission during festivals

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New Delhi: As COVID-19 cases continue to escalate in the country, experts have warned that there is a high risk of contracting and spreading infections ahead of the festive season.

Amid a rise in coronavirus infections in some parts of the country, the central government has asked Delhi and six states to ensure adequate testing, promote Covid-appropriate behaviour and increase the pace of vaccination to contain the surge.

In a letter to Delhi, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said upcoming festivals and mass congregations in different parts of the country may potentially facilitate transmission of infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

According to Dr Sushila Kataria, senior Director of Internal Medicine at Medanta Hospital, he said, "During the monsoon season and the upcoming festival season, there is a high risk of contracting and spreading infections. Food and water-borne infections, as well as respiratory tract infections, are highly possible."

She further said people should follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour and avoid large gatherings. "COVID-19 cases have recently increased as well. As a result, it is advised that people act responsibly while celebrating the festivals. People should avoid large gatherings and celebrate with their families. Even if someone is having a gathering, there should be enough space for everyone to maintain social distance, and the room should be ventilated or else the celebrations should be held outdoors."

"In addition, those invited for celebrations should be immunised against COVID-19. Those who have not yet taken their booster dose should do so. Since monsoon season is going on, the chances of getting a viral infection like cold, cough etc is higher. Keeping that in mind, people should maintain hygiene, make sure that their food is freshly cooked and not left out for an extended period of time. People, particularly children, should avoid eating junk food and street food," she said.

She added, "Furthermore, maintaining hand hygiene is critical, as is keeping a safe distance between people, avoiding overcrowded areas, and wearing a mask when going outside."

Dr Rajiv Dang, a senior Director and Head of the Department (HOD) - Internal Medicine and Medical Director, Max hospital, Gurugram also expressed his concerns.

"It's a time for all of us to celebrate festivals, which does bring the best out from all of us. But let us not forget that amongst this festivity, the health component should not get affected. We are not out of the COVID-19 pandemic yet. We are seeing patients almost on a daily basis, but they are certainly much milder in severity. They are not requiring medication, but they do require isolation," said Dr Rajiv Dang.

Dr Dang further said all precautions should be taken to enjoy the season. He said, "All the precautions that we require to help ourselves in the family should include acts of avoiding crowded places, taking precaution in the form of maintaining proper hand hygiene, proper distance maintenance, and proper use of mask trying to avoid mass lunches and dinners and such kind of activities. It is suggested that we should avoid all that and we save and enjoy the season with its best spirits."

On August 6, the Union Health Ministry informed that Delhi has contributed 8.2 per cent of India's weekly new cases in the week ending August 5 and has also recorded 1.86 times increase in average daily new cases from 802 in the week ending July 29 to 1,492 in in the week ending August 5. An increase in the weekly positivity rate was also reported in Delhi -- from 5.90 per cent in the week ending July 29 to 9.86 per cent in the week ending August 5.

The Health Ministry said Kerala reported 2,347 average cases per day in the past month and Maharashtra with 2,135 cases. The Centre also cited the district-wise spread of infection.


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