The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has sounded the alarm bell that people infected and recovered from COVID-19 virus attack may contract it again if antibodies start depleting. The ICMR has said that the cut-off date for depletion of antibodies is 100 days from the date of infection. Over two lakh people have already been infected and about 1.77 lakh have been discharged from hospitals and COVID-care centres in Assam. The ICMR warning should also alert the State Health and Family Welfare department against any complacency in decline in the positivity rate. The Ministry of Health has tasked the ICMR to conduct an assessment on reinfection. The apex medica research body in India has set up a committee of the experts for the task and till the results of the assessment are out the state health departments should not lower guard against possible reinfection in recovered patients. The ICMR has said that multiple studies have suggested that the antibodies that develop after COVID-19 infection may sustain for about five months. It has so far recorded three cases of reinfection- two from Mumbai and one from Ahmedabad.
The Centre for Disease Control in United States said that if a person infected by the COVID-19 is reinfected 90 days after turning negative then it is a case of reinfection. The ICMR warning on possible reinfection indicates that the pandemic curve may rise again if the recovered patients recontract the infection after depletion of antibodies. Addition of the reinfected cases with the fresh cases will make the pandemic situation worse and difficult to handle. Lessons must be learnt from peak in the pandemic in the month of September when high positivity rate pushed the state to the brink as hospitals beds almost became saturated ever after the Health department augmented the Intensive Care Units and oxygen availability. The death toll also rose sharply in September. The ICMR has warned such people not to be complacent and continue all precautionary measures like wearing facemask, maintaining hand hygiene and the physical distance in public places. A tendency has grown among some people who have recovered from the infection not to wear the mask in public places as they believe that they are no longer vulnerable to COVID-19 virus infection. Such tendency is more prominent among some political leaders, workers as well as media persons who have been discharged from hospitals after turning negative. With 2021 Assembly polls process barely five months away, the political activities in the state have started peaking.
The Health department should give wide publicity to the warning issued by the ICMR to raise awareness among them. Reporting of post-COVID complications such lung fibrosis in many recovered patients has also raised an alarm in the state. Once the lung tissues get damaged it fails to function in full capacity which leads to shortage in oxygen supply in the body. Reinfection, after depletion of antibodies, will make the condition of such patients critical, health experts have cautioned. It is heartening to note that the puja committees in the state have responded to the appeal of the State government to organize the Durga Puja festival on a low key and strictly follow the safety protocols. However, it is unfortunate that a large section of people has not yet understood the importance of wearing the mask to flatten the pandemic curve. The state has not yet reached the desired level of awareness on the need to take the precautionary measures to win the battle against COVID-19. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rightly said that there can be no room for any complacency till vaccine for COVID-19 is found. Speculations on timeline of vaccine discovery and availability is misleading for the general public and have adverse impact on awareness drive. People become relaxed and start taking precautionary measures lightly when speculative statements on availability of vaccines flood the public domain. It is unfortunate the COVID-19 vaccines have been dragged into electioneering for Assembly polls when over 200 medical research groups in 40 countries are still working on it.
Facts are to be told to assure the people in the state about the actual situation and the preparedness to handle the pandemic situation. Care must be taken by the State government to continuously caution against the possibility of a fresh spike in the curve while making public the details about new cases, recovered cases, tests and positivity rates. ICMR warning calls for the State Health department undertaking special awareness drive among those recovered against possible reinfection on account of non-adherence to precautionary measures. It should also take note that several health experts have not ruled out a second wave of infections during winter months. The awareness strategy should be meticulously planned so that they are well-informed on precautions to be taken and also motivate others to follow them.