New Delhi: Amid concerns among Indians of the predicted third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria has said he feels that the subsequent wave is unlikely to be as severe as the second one. In an interview with NDTV on Saturday, Dr Guleria said, “There are a lot of debates on whether the third wave will be more severe than the second… my feeling is the subsequent wave will not be as bad as the second.”Also Read - Delta Most Transmissible Variant So Far, Spreading Rapidly Among Unvaccinated People: WHO Chief

However, the AIIMS chief cautioned people against underestimating COVID-19 and its variants. “We need to learn from the second wave and prepare accordingly to deal with a possible third,” Dr Guleria said. Also Read - As Delta Plus Variant Emerges In Multiple Cities, Centre Asks States To Intensify Containment Measures

On whether delta plus variant will be responsible for third wave: Also Read - AIIMS Chief Randeep Guleria Says COVID Third Wave Inevitable, Could Hit India in 6 to 8 Weeks

Addressing concerns that the third wave of COVID-19 in India can be driven by the new delta plus variant, the AIIMS chief said that the government is “closely monitoring” the situation, but the delta variant is of more immediate concern. Delta plus variant is reported to be potentially more transmissible version of delta variant, which fueled the second wave of coronavirus in India.

Dr Guleria added that currently delta plus is not the dominant variant in India but delta variant is, which should be of more immediate concern.

“We are very closely monitoring that (the ‘delta plus’ variant) (but) at the moment ‘delta plus’ is not the dominant variant in India… the ‘delta’ variant is. So we need to actively track it… do genome sequencing to see how this variant is behaving in our population and prepare accordingly,” Dr Guleria stated.

‘No data to show children will be seriously hit in next COVID waves’

Earlier this month, the AIIMS chief said that there is no data, either from India or globally, to show that children will be seriously infected in any subsequent COVID-19 waves.

He said that “it is a piece of misinformation that subsequent waves of the COVID-19 pandemic are going to cause severe illness in children”.

Noting that 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the children who got infected and got admitted in hospitals during the second wave in India, had either comorbidities or low immunity, Dr Guleria said that healthy children recovered with mild illness without need for hospitalisation.

Guleria further asserted that “Covid appropriate behaviour is key to preventing future waves”.

Explaining why pandemics return again, the AIIMS Director said “waves normally occur in pandemics caused due to respiratory viruses; the 1918 Spanish Flu, H1N1 (swine) flu are examples”.

“The second wave of 1918 Spanish Flu was the biggest, after which there was a smaller third wave,” said Guleria. “And as we know, SARS-Cov-2 is a respiratory virus.”

Multiple waves occur when there is a susceptible population and when a large part of the population acquires immunity against the infection, “the virus becomes endemic and infection becomes seasonal like that of H1N1 that commonly spreads during monsoon or winters”, he said.

“Waves can occur due to change in the virus (such as new variants). Since new mutations become more infectious, there is a higher chance for the virus to spread.”

Guleria said that one of the reasons behind a wave can be human behaviour and cautioned that “whenever cases increase, there is a fear in people and human behaviour changes. People strictly follow Covid appropriate behaviours and non-pharmaceutical interventions help break the chain of transmission. But when unlocking resumes, people tend to think that not much infection will happen and tend to not follow Covid appropriate behaviour”.

Due to this, the AIIMS chief said, the virus again starts spreading in the community, leading potentially to another wave.

“If we have to stop subsequent waves, we need to aggressively follow Covid appropriate behaviour until we can say that a significant number of our population is vaccinated or has acquired natural immunity.

“When enough people are vaccinated or when we acquire natural immunity against the infection, then these waves will stop. The only way out is to strictly follow Covid appropriate behaviour,” Dr Guleria said.

(With IANS inputs)