India’s Covid-19 Tally Crosses 20-Lakh-Mark As Daily Cases Surge
A cart of food sits outside a ward at the Covid-19 Care Center in New Delhi, India. (Photographer: T. Narayan/Bloomberg)

India’s Covid-19 Tally Crosses 20-Lakh-Mark As Daily Cases Surge

India's Covid-19 tally jumped by more than 62,000 in a biggest-single day spike to cross the 20-lakh-mark as the world’s second-most populous nation inches closer to become the epicentre of the outbreak of the deadly virus.

India added 62,538 new cases in the last 24 hours, taking the total count to 20,27,074, according to the Health Ministry’s update at 8 a.m. on Aug. 7. This includes 13,78,105 recoveries and 41,585 people who have succumbed. In the last 24 hours, 49,769 patients recovered and 886 died.

The number of active cases in India stood at 6,07,384.

The South Asian nation, home to about 130 crore people, is now only behind the U.S. in adding most number of new cases daily. While the U.S. added 55,627 cases on an average over the last week, India added 55,458 fresh infections, with no sign of its virus curve flattening.

“We don’t need to be overawed by the rising in cases,” Rajesh Bhushan, secretary of Ministry of Family Health and Welfare, told reporters earlier this week during a press briefing. “Countries with high population base will have higher number of cases.”

India took 170 days to reach the 10-lakh mark and only 21 says to double it to 20 lakh. The pace of transmission continues to escalate unabated even as it slowed in some developed nations.

India is adding nearly 1,000 deaths a day, the third-fastest rate globally, overtaking Mexico. But when it comes to deaths per million population, India ranks among the lowest, largely because of its size.

India’s deaths per million is around 30 compared with the average death per million population of more than 150 in other larger outbreaks, according to Our World in Data—a project based at the University of Oxford in the U.K.

Emerging Hotspots

While states like Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra account for 66% of cases in India, newer hotspots continue to emerge.

The pace of infections in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Assam, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana has been escalating.

Andhra Pradesh is doubling the number of cases in eleven days, while Bihar and Assam are taking about 14 and 15 days, respectively. That is below the national doubling rate of 21 days. The mounting cases have prompted states to implement fresh lockdown curbs.

Suburbs and large village clusters are the areas where the government needs to focus on, said Giridhar R Babu, professor and head of lifecourse epidemiology at Public Health Foundation of India.

“All the areas where there is higher population density will catch up the in the next phase of transmission,” he said, adding that no state and cities can be immune from the rise in cases.

While India has been able to contain the widespread impact in larger cities, villages and areas, where the health infrastructure is not robust, will be tested as the virus deepens into the country.

“We need to make revisions in our approach and strategy,” Babu said. “Developed states that have done well will have to help the states which have poor manpower and resources.”

Testing Is Key

Boosting testing in the country continues to remain a challenge as it’s far lower when compared to other large outbreaks. The U.S. is doing about 1.78 lakh tests people per million, the U.K. is conducting about 1.5 lakh tests per million people. Russia is doing 2.05 lakh tests per million. This is far higher than the 16,152 tests per million done by India.

The country, however, increased testing capacity in the last two months and has screened more than 2.2 crore samples as of Aug. 5. Out of the overall tests done in the country, 25-30% are rapid antigen tests tests, ICMR Director-General Dr Balram Bhargava said during a press briefing earlier this week.

Positivity rate has also increased. Out of the 100 tests done, now nine cases are positive. That compares with three in the first week of the lockdown.

There’s also disparity in testing across states. Maharashtra, the worst-hit state, is conducting 20,239 tests per million people. That compares with Delhi’s 58,786 tests per million people and 41,475 in Andhra Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, is only doing 11,308 tests per million.

Babu agreed that India has drastically increased testing, but it may not be sufficient. “We have to increase the testing by another 10 times,” he said.

The government, however, maintained that their efforts to contain the virus have been showing benefits, as India boasts of one of the highest recoveries among the largest outbreaks—with nearly 67% of the people recovered so far—and the lowest mortality rate of 2.07% .

Community transmission, however, seems to be rampant.

“Community transmission exists in most of the states,” Abdul Ghafur, an infectious disease specialist in Chennai, told BloombergQuint over the phone. “How do you have 2 million cases without community transmission?” he said, adding that it’s the natural process of the virus.

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