In Charts: How Bad Is India’s Covid-19 Second Wave
India’s second wave of coronavirus infections is the world’s fastest growing as Asia’s third-largest economy adds more cases than the U.S. and Brazil in a week on an average.
The South Asian nation of 130 crore people—only trailing the U.S. and Brazil in total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases—added more than 1 lakh infections on an average over the last one week, according to BloombergQuint’s calculations. That compares with the seven-day rolling average of around 65,000 and 63,000 cases added by the U.S. and Brazil, respectively.
On April 9 alone, India reported 1.32 lakh fresh cases, taking the total count in the country to 1.31 crore, the union Health Ministry’s update at 8 a.m. showed. This is the third consecutive day of adding more than 1 lakh infections. Daily additions have been exceeding single-day recoveries since March 11, causing the active cases to bounce back to close to 10 lakh—a tally last touched in September last year.
According to Jayaprakash Muliyil, chairman of the scientific advisory committee in the National Institute of Epidemiology, cases are emerging in areas that previously had low infection rate. “Wherever there is high density of people with previously uninfected groups, they are susceptible to these massive outbreaks, and are leading to a surge in cases as people have dropped their guards.”
Giridhar Babu, professor and head of life-course epidemiology at Public Health Foundation of India, said due to laxity it’s the young people that are the predominate drivers, and in the days to come it will continue to go up.
Maharashtra has once again emerged as the epicentre of the outbreak, with the wealthiest state accounting for more than half of the daily additions. Of the 10 districts with most number of cases, seven are in Maharashtra.
This has forced the state government to stop all non-essential services, shut malls and restaurants, and urge companies to resort to work from home for the ongoing month.
Punjab and Chhattisgarh are witnessing a surge, too. They have added most Covid-19 cases after Maharashtra over the last couple of weeks.
The average daily cases in a week in Punjab have gone up from 240 in February to more than 2,700 in April, while in Chhattisgarh, it has gone up from 250 to more than 2,400 during the period.
Chhattisgarh accounts for 6% of the total cases and 3% of total deaths in the country, according to health ministry data, while Punjab accounts for 3% of the total cases and 4.5% of the total fatalities.
The positivity rate among the states has also gone up as the virus spreads at an aggressive pace. Newer hotspots such as Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Chandigarh and Punjab are reporting positivity rates of more than 8%.
The mortality rate in the country is also on the rise, with daily deaths at a six-month high. Maharashtra reported average daily deaths of 250 in the first week of April, followed by Punjab with an average of 58 casualties, according to the Health Ministry data.
The spike in coronavirus cases is also seen at a time new variants have been reported in the country.
As on March 30, India reported 807 cases related to the U.K. variant, 47 from the South African strain and one in the Brazilian form, the Health Ministry said.
“There is definitely a possibility of multiple new variants which are more infectious and are adding to the rapid surge,” Babu said. But there isn’t enough investigation which variant is leading to this and the country needs to examine new variants, he said.
The Maharashtra government has already indicated that the state will be forced to go into another lockdown if the situation doesn’t improve.
Muliyil, however, thinks that a “lockdown will be a foolish move”. It’s not that the virus disappeared after the first lockdown. “We must also remember that we don’t have just one disease; there are thousands of others diseases, and going the lockdown way could lead to more deaths as it disrupts everything.”
India has conducted more than 25 crore tests so far, with over 13 lakh sampled in a day. Amid rising cases, the central government has urged states to increase the percentage of RT-PCR tests to over 70%.
Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala and Chhattisgarh, among other large outbreaks, according to Bhushan, aren’t doing enough RT-PCR tests. The percentage of such tests in Chhattisgarh and Gujarat is below 35%.
Meanwhile, the world’s biggest vaccination drive, which began in January, fell short of the government’s target. Only 5% of the population has received single dose and 0.8% received the second shot, according to Bloomberg's vaccine tracker.
India needs to implement stricter Covid appropriate behavior to prevent a further rising of cases as it could overburden hospital infrastructure, Babu said. The government should look into shutting schools, colleges, restricting gathering of people, rallies, among others, to avoid severe spread of cases, he said.
According to Muliyil, the government needs to recognise that people are not afraid as before. “Vaccine should be available to those who want it, and not done in phased manner.”