NEW DELHI

As India’s coronavirus cases topped the 1 million mark this week, experts stressed again that universal mask-wearing can help to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and also ease the pressure on hospitals.

As on Sunday, 1,077,618 cases of the coronavirus have been reported in India so far. The disease has spread to almost all states and union territories in India.

“Universal mask-wearing is superior to the Indian-style lockdowns to slow the spread of coronavirus and ease the pressure on hospitals,” virologist and vaccine researcher Thekkekara Jacob told Anadolu Agency.

“People want to live a fairly normal life, and that is what masks do, make human closeness safer than very leaky lockdowns.”

On Sunday, according to Indian Health Ministry figures, 38,902 fresh cases were reported in the last 24 hours – the country’s biggest single-day jump so far.

Ministry records also show that 26,816 deaths have been reported so far, with more than 70% cases due to comorbidities, meaning multiple ailments.

Dr. Jacob says that he expects the epidemic will likely reach its peak in the second week of August.

“Then numbers may decline very slowly and we also will reach the endemic phase by end-2020 or early 2021,” he said. “Our focus should now be to save the elderly population as well.”

Shahid Jameel, virologist and CEO of the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance, a public charity, said that 1 million cases in India is “just another number.”

“As a country we should continue to follow the basics of testing at scale, efficiently tracing contacts of infected people, and isolating infected people and their contacts,” he told Anadolu Agency.

“We would have to increase our testing capacity to about double the current levels, and ensure that all states have adequate resources to do the tests, trace contacts, and treat people.”

While Jamaal believes the situation will improve “if both central and state governments follow a coordinated strategy,” he added that “it also requires citizen participation.”

“As individuals, we must all wear masks in public. And wear them properly. Also practice physical distancing and hand hygiene,” he says.

-‘Boost surveillance’

Experts also believe that real-time surveillance and data-informed decisions need to be increased.

“We need to have enhanced real-time surveillance and data-informed decisions,” said Dr. Oommen John, a public health expert at the George Institute for Global Health India.

“The trajectories of the transmission will depend on the rate at which the public health responses are optimized as per localized containment strategies.”

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