Bengaluru, July 13 (Reuters) – Opening India’s tourist destinations and allowing pilgrimage travel could act as COVID-19 “super spreaders” of a third wave of infections, the country’s top doctor’s body warned on Monday.
After a catastrophic second wave, driven largely by the more infectious and dangerous Delta variant, ravaged the country’s health system, India is now reporting roughly a tenth of its peak daily numbers in May.
But experts worry that a third wave of infections is not far off as travel restrictions are eased in various parts of the country.
On Monday, the Indian Medical Association, India’s top doctor’s body, appealed to state governments and citizens to not lower their guard against COVID-19, saying a third wave was inevitable.
“It is painful to note, in this crucial time… in many parts of the country, both government and public are complacent and engaged in mass gatherings without following COVID protocols,” the IMA said in a press release.
The comments from the IMA echoed those from senior government officials, who have urged citizens to avoid crowding at tourist places and cautioned that the second coronavirus wave is not yet over.
“Tourist bonanza, pilgrimage travel, religious fervour are all needed, but can wait for few more months,” the IMA said, adding that opening up for these rituals and enabling unvaccinated people to go to these mass gatherings are “potential super spreaders for the COVID third wave.”
India on Monday reported 37,154 new COVID-19 cases and 724 new deaths in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed, compared to the peak of over 400,000 infections a day in May.
The country has reported a COVID-19 death toll of over 408,000, the third-highest in the world.
The pace of India’s vaccination drive has also slowed down, with roughly 8% of the 950 million eligible adult population fully vaccinated. The country had vaccinated 3.7 million people on Monday as of 1240 GMT.