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Dhaka Tribune

Rising fear as Covid-19 numbers skyrocket in India

With the number of Covid-19 cases steadily increasing each day, India is approaching pandemic figures similar to those of Brazil, which is currently ranked second in the world after the USA

Update : 04 Sep 2020, 06:16 PM

India's lockdown was undoubtedly one of the harshest lockdowns in the world. India relaxed the lockdown issued in late March, from the first week of June. Now, with just two months of easing the lockdown in the country, the number of coronavirus cases is growing by leaps and bounds.

Countries around the world are witnessing a record spike of coronavirus infections, with India set to become the worst-virus hit country, soon to pass Brazil, and ultimately the US in total reported cases.

India on Friday witnessed another single day spike of 83,341 new Covid-19 cases. The pandemic has killed more than 873,000 people worldwide since surfacing in China late last year, and more than 26 million infections have been recorded. 

With the number of Covid-19 cases steadily increasing each day, India is approaching pandemic figures similar to those of Brazil, which is currently ranked second in the world after the USA. 

Health experts say the virus reproduction rate is ticking up as more state governments desperate to stimulate an ailing economy, are loosening lockdown restrictions, which is spreading the virus further.

“Everything right now is indicating a massive surge of caseloads in the coming days,” Dr Anant Bhan, a health researcher at Melaka Manipal Medical College in southern India, told the New York Times. 

“What is more worrying is that we are inching toward the No 1 spot globally.”

During the lockdown, most of India’s Covid-19 cases were concentrated in urban areas, Dr Bhan said. But as restrictions on interstate travel were eased, many people started moving from the cities to rural areas, taking the virus with them.

Coronavirus numbers explained

The number of daily new infections in the country exceeded 83,000 on Thursday. This is a record of more than 80,000 infections in a single day in a single country. That trend also continues on Friday. 

In a bulletin released on Friday morning, India’s Ministry of Health said, in the last 24 hours, 83,341 people in the country have been newly infected with Covid-19. With this, a total of 3,936,747 people were affected in the country. 

India’s day on day increase is now substantially higher than that of either the United States or Brazil, which have reported between 30,000 to 50,000 new infections per day in recent days.

Over the last 20 days, more people in India have been infected with the coronavirus than in the US and Brazil. More alarmingly,in the last two days, the number of daily cases in India has almost doubled compared to that in the aforementioned two most coronavirus affected two countries. 

The United States has recorded the highest number of cases with 6,335,244, followed by Brazil with 4,046,150.

Daily infections are on the rise in states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. 

In states like Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Assam, Orissa, Punjab, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, daily infections have also increased in the last few days. 

The number of cases in Delhi has increased in the last few days as compared to last month. On the contrary, the number of daily cases in Bihar and West Bengal has remained stable.

The percentage of people who are tested every day and come back positive is called the positivity rate.   It has been at 7% for the last four days. In the last 24 hours, the infection rate in the country is 7.12%. 

India has recently overtaken Mexico to become the third deadliest country in the world in terms of the coronavirus. However, the total death toll in India is much lower than in the US and Brazil, which are in first and second place respectively.

The death rate in India is much lower than in those countries.

According to the health ministry, 1,096 people have died of coronavirus in the last 24 hours and the virus has killed a total of 68,472 people in India.

Of them, more than 25,000 have died in the Indian state of  Maharashtra alone. In  Tamil Nadu, which is in second place, the total death toll has crossed 7,500. The death toll in Karnataka, in third place, surpassed 6,000 today. The number in the country's capital is 4,500.

In coronavirus infections and deaths, Maharashtra tops both lists from the beginning. A total of 843,844 people have been found affected there. There are about 18 thousand new infections detected daily.

A few days ago, Andhra Pradesh overtook Tamil Nadu and rose to second position in the list of infections. Over the past few weeks, an average of 10,000 people have been infected there daily. 

The total number of cases was significant in Delhi (1,82,306), West Bengal (171,861), Bihar (142,967), and Telangana (135,884). 

Per capita, however, India has had far fewer deaths than the US, Brazil, and many others, which doctors say reflects the country’s younger and leaner population. 

One reason the country is reporting such a steep rise in infections now is simply that it is testing more. India performs nearly a million tests a day, compared with 200,000 a day two months ago.

Easing lockdown measures

A lifeline for millions of people living in the country’s major cities, metro rail networks were shut down in late March when Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a “complete lockdown” that required people to stay home and brought the country to a standstill.

But the strict lockdown — imposed with little warning or planning — also exacerbated India’s inequality and economic woes. In urban areas, millions of daily wage earners were left without jobs or food — and many made lengthy and sometimes fatal trips home to far away states, often on foot.

Under pressure to resuscitate the battered economy, Modi’s government started to roll back nationwide lockdown measures in May. 

“Corona will remain part of our lives for a long time, but we cannot allow our lives to be confined only around corona,” Modi said in a national televised address at the time.

Indian health authorities have said that part of the reason for the soaring cases is an increase in testing. 

Yet some experts believe cases are still being underreported. Last month, antibody tests on more than 21,000 people in New Delhi found that nearly one in four residents may have been infected with coronavirus.

Modi has pointed to the country’s widespread testing, high recovery rate and low death rates, to highlight its success in handling the coronavirus. 

But others argue the pandemic has revealed the country’s shortcomings in providing widespread accessible basic needs like health care, education, and electricity.

A matter of concern 

Countries worldwide are struggling to balance the need for populations to get back to work and study with keeping cases under control, fearing above all, a return to draconian lockdowns.

India ranks 87 in the world in terms of infections.

The reproduction rate - also known as the “R” number, which measures the ability of the virus to spread - has also declined in India. 

But a closer look at the number of infections in India shows that the number of people infected with the virus is very high.

India currently ranks 120th in the world in terms of the number of tests done, and detection rates are also rising.

India's economy began to falter before the epidemic. So it is difficult for India to go through a hard lockdown again. If it stops doing business and trade, more people will be unemployed. 

“I'm really concerned about the numbers,” Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told BBC.

“If 80% of the people in India are infected, the country's population will have ‘herd immunity’ and the virus can be prevented,” Jha said. 

With this so-called herd immunity, “it would mean millions of people would die, which would not be acceptable.”

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