India is likely to face the "inevitable" third wave of the COVID pandemic in the next six to eight weeks, said AIIMS Delhi chief Dr Randeep Guleria. He also criticised the carelessness shown by people as soon as the states began to ease curbs.
Emphasising the need for people to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour, he told NDTV, "We don't seem to have learnt from what happened between the first and the second wave. Again crowds are building up... people are gathering. It will take some time for the number of cases to start rising at the national level. But it (third wave) could happen within the next six to eight weeks... It all depends on how we go ahead in terms of COVID-appropriate behaviour and preventing crowds."
Dr Guleria pointed out that the country's main challenge is covering the maximum population under the inoculation drive. "Unless we're vaccinated, we're vulnerable in the coming months," he said adding that "testing, tracking, and treating" should be our focus in containment zones.
According to the latest government data, 27.23 crore vaccine doses have been administered in India so far.
A recent CNBC-TV18 had cited reports to suggest that the third wave of the pandemic is likely to hit India by October this year. When asked about the more transmissible variants of the virus, he said we need to be careful as the "virus is still mutating'. He also suggested that the unlock process should be carried out by states in a graded manner.
Dr Guleria's remarks come hours after Dr Naveet Wig, the chairperson of the COVID Task Force for AIIMS, cautioned people against becoming complacent and circumventing COVID guidelines.
Last month, Dr Guleria had clarified that there is no indication that children will be more affected in the third wave of the pandemic. "Data from the first and the second wave shows that children are usually protected from COVID and even if they get it, they have a mild infection," he had said.
Confirming his assessment, a study conducted by the AIIMS Delhi and the World Health Organization revealed that COVID's third wave is not likely to disproportionately affect children.
On Friday (June 18), Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, epidemiologist and expert, Public Policy and Health Systems, and Dr Shashank Joshi, member of Maharashtra COVID Task Force, in an exclusive interview with CNBC-TV18, had said the third wave could strike as early as in the next couple of weeks.
"The mistake we made between the first and second wave should not be repeated in the gap between the second and third wave," said Dr Joshi.