After Dropping Dramatically, COVID-19 Cases Surge In India, Pakistan

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Corona virus infections in india and pakistan are surging. But until just last month there had been a dramatic drop in cases in those two countries. This sudden change has confounded public health. Who are now investigating two mysteries. Why did cases in india and pakistan drop. And why are they searching now. Npr india correspondent. Lauren freyer is on the line for mumbai. Lauren hi there. What is the situation in mumbai. So mumbai is seeing its highest case load since the start of the pandemic worse than last spring when there was a total lockdown. Now we're not under lockdown here yet Partly because of how damaging it was the last time around. India's economy shrank twenty four percent last spring and summer. Were under an eight pm curfew here. There's a ban on gatherings indian festival of holi. This big colorful festival was basically cancelled last weekend. And this is all come as a shock to a lot of indians because until recently as you mentioned cases it dropped here to a tenth of what they once were and that hasn't happened in lots of places that have done lockdowns like the ones you described. So what are scientists telling you about why there was such a dramatic drop in cases so random tests last summer and fall showed about half of people in india's. Biggest cities had antibodies. And so what we thought is those people had already been infected many of them as symptomatically and they had some protection and okay that would make sense but then why would cases suddenly be surging now. Yeah that's the real big question. I called up a variety. Dr gunn deep kong and she says it looks like this wave is straining private hospitals more than public ones so so this latest round of of infections could be affluent indians. Who who stayed home during the first wave and now we're going out and maybe let their guard down. Be boo boo previously able to isolate themselves and stay away from getting infected are now out and about and more likely to be infected but on the other hand dr kong says this could be people who are getting reinfected now be reached a stage where previously infected people cannot ward off infection anymore. I mean essentially. She says too much time may have passed for those folks who were infected last year still have protection from the virus and she says there could be another explanation new variants last week. India said it's detected one. They're calling a double mutant. Which has two mutations the mutation first that first emerged in the uk and then another mutation that was first discovered in south africa Soon to tell whether that's really to blame for this latest spike and so what is india doing about all of this trying to vaccinate people as quickly as possible. Starting tomorrow india's opening up vaccinations to anyone over the age of forty five. I mean india. Good position in that. It's the world's biggest vaccine producer so supply isn't an issue here. I visited an indian factory. A couple of weeks ago. That's churning out one hundred million doses a month but india's really big it's got nearly one point four billion people and so it takes a lot of time to get shots and all those arms other countries in the region may have smaller populations but they don't have the supply. Neighboring pakistan is importing doses from china. And they're seeing a huge surge. Even the prime minister has it there. Npr's lauren freyer in mumbai. Thank you laurin. you're welcome thanks for having me.

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