After reporting a significant drop in the number of Covid-19 cases for months, some Indian states have seen a sharp uptick in infections in February. The BBC's Vikas Pandey and Soutik Biswas report.
In early February, physicians in Amravati district, some 700km (435 miles) from India's commercial capital, Mumbai, noticed a sudden surge in the number of people suffering from Covid-19.
Life in this cotton-growing district in the western state of Maharashtra had almost returned to normal after the first wave of infections last summer. The ICUs of the 1,600-bed state-run hospital and half-a-dozen private hospitals were nearly empty.
"But everything changed in February," says Anil Jadhav, a local journalist. "And now there's panic in the district."
Since the beginning of February, Amravati has recorded more than 10,000 cases and over 66 deaths from Covid. More than 1,000 were receiving treatment for the disease this week. The positivity rate is in frightful double digits. Amravati and a few other districts in Maharashtra have been again locked down.
The hotspots in a district of 2.5 million people are mainly congested urban areas, say locals.
"We really don't know what the cause of the surge is. What is worrying is that entire families are getting infected. This is a completely new trend," Dr Shyamsunder Nikam, civil surgeon of the district, says.
A number of neighbouring districts have also seen a sharp uptick in cases and Maharashtra recorded nearly 9,000 cases on Thursday, the largest single-day spike in four months. It reported 80 deaths on the same day.
"People here have been not wearing masks. They have been attending unregulated mass gatherings such as marriages and campaigns for local elections. There is free intermingling of people, carriers are not getting isolated, and testing and tracking is low. This has led to this situation," Dr Sanjay Oak, a member of the state's Covid task force, told the BBC.
It's not just Maharashtra where cases have grown recently. Some areas in Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Punjab states have also reported surges. This comes at a time when much of India is reporting a sharp fall in cases - with daily infections for the county falling to less than 20,000 from a peak of over 90,000 in September.
And that has baffled scientists, disease modellers and epidemiologist. The most common reasons given for the spikes in some states are the same as in Maharashtra - big weddings, people not wearing masks, reopening of cinema halls, gyms and swimming pools, and large political rallies in states like West Bengal where elections are due soon.
Source: BBC News
BDST: 1204 HRS, FEB 27, 2021