India Fourth Worst-Hit Nation After Virus Cases Exceed U.K.

(Bloomberg) -- India’s coronavirus infections have surged to overtake the number of recorded cases in the U.K., making it the world’s fourth-worst affected nation.

India recorded 297,535 infections by Friday, compared to the U.K.’s 292,860 tally, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University. After burgeoning infections in May and June, India now trails only the U.S., Brazil and Russia.

The South Asian nation has one of the world’s lowest testing rates, at 3.78 tests per 1,000 people, compared to the U.K. with 53.53 tests per 1,000, according to Our World in Data figures produced by the University of Oxford and Global Change Data Lab. It’s led epidemiologists to warn India’s virus tally is likely much higher than the official figures.

Failure to ramp up testing and identify infection hotspots in spite of a stringent nationwide lockdown has cost India, which ranked 154 out of 195 countries in global healthcare access and quality even before the virus. The country with 50% population below 25 years of age, has recorded higher recovery rates and lower deaths, ranking it below Canada, according to the JHU data.

Fears of a sharper rise in daily infections increased after India eased its national lockdown on June 8. The nation of 1.3 billion people has restarted inter-state flights and opened cities to buttress a sinking economy that has left businesses broken and impoverished millions.

Asia’s third-largest economy is heading for its first full-year contraction in more than four decades -- some say of as much as 5% -- making rising coronavirus health costs more worrisome.

Cities Struggling

Covid-19 cases across the country -- especially in large cities struggling with shortages of hospital beds and ventilators that include the financial nerve center Mumbai and capital New Delhi -- are expected to peak in July. The capital may need 80,000 additional beds to manage an expected surge of more than half a million infections by next month-end.

India and its neighbors in South Asia -- the world’s most populated region -- have reported the world’s fastest growth in coronavirus cases in the past week, according to data of the 20 most affected nations compiled by Bloomberg. Infections have risen by 27% in Pakistan, while Bangladesh cases spiked by 19% and 17% in India.

The spread of the virus is accelerating in places like India and Brazil as hot spots shift to developing countries ill-equipped to contain its spread. Health experts warned earlier this year of the dangers the coronavirus presents to developing nations such as India, which possess fewer strategies to contain the disease’s spread than wealthier countries.

As the pandemic eases in other European countries, the U.K. remains one of the countries worst hit around the globe, with more than 41,000 coronavirus deaths so far. The prime minister contracted the virus and almost died of it, and his government has faced a cascade of criticism over its response to the pandemic. While the rest of Europe is opening up its borders, the U.K. is still largely shut down.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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