New Delhi:

As the country battles the second wave of COVID-19, the government Thursday said the virus may emerge again and so preparations have to be made at the national level in collaboration with states, infrastructure needs to be ramped up while curbs and appropriate behaviour must be followed.

Dismissing allegations that the government was unaware of the intensity of the second wave, NITI Aayog member (health) Dr V K Paul said, ''We kept warning again and again from this platform that the second wave of COVID-19 will come.

''It was said that the sero-positivity is 20 per cent, 80 per cent of the population is still vulnerable and that virus has not gone anywhere and other countries were also witnessing a resurge.''

At a press conference, Paul said, ''The prime minister had conveyed the country about the emerging second wave on March 17 without creating panic and had said that we have to fight it.'' ''Was such a peak expected,'' he said, ''well, no modelling can predict the size of a peak as the unexpected behaviour virus is well known.'' '

'So peak will come, the virus can again emerge, we know. So preparations have to be made at country level in collaboration with states, infrastructure has to be ramped up, containment measures have to be implemented and COVID appropriate behaviour has to be followed.

''We had not created panic… other countries have faced multiple peaks after all it's a pandemic,'' he said.

He said it is the nature of the disease that it will ultimately go to villages.

This epidemiology is well known, Paul said as he urged people to follow COVID appropriate behaviour and embrace vaccination.

Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal said that plateauing in daily new COVID-19 cases and a slight decline positivity rate have been recorded in the country over the past three days, but added 10 states still have a positivity rate of more than 25 per cent which was ''worrisome trend''.

He said as many as 12 states have more than 1 lakh active COVID-19 cases, while 24 states have more than 15 per cent case positivity rate. ''There are 10 states –Goa, Puducherry, West Bengal, Karntaka, Haryana, Rajasthan, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha where the COVID-19 case positivity rate is more than 25 per cent while there are eight states including Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Kerala where it is more than 20 per cent, which is a worrisome trend,'' he said.

He, however, said the number of districts with week-on week rise in COVID-19 tests, yet decline in positivity rate has increased from 125 in April 22-28 to 338 between May 6 and 12. Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan,Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa and Telangana were among 20 states and union territories showing continued plateauing or decrease in daily new COVID-19 cases.

Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal,Punjab, Assam, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, Pudusherry and Manipur were among 16 states and union territories showing continued increasing trend in daily new COVID-19 cases and remain area of concern.

There 316 districts showing an increasing trend in COVID-19 cases since last two weeks while 187 districts have relatively shown a decline in COVID-19 cases during the same period , he said.

India has been reeling under a catastrophic second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday, the country added 3,62,727 new coronavirus infections, taking the COVID-19 tally of cases to 2,37,03,665, while the death toll rose to 2,58,317 with 4,120 daily fatalities, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated this morning.

The active cases have increased to 37,10,525 comprising 15.65 per cent of the total infections.