The good news on Covid-19 | HT Editorial
In the past week, India has reported 27,672 new infections of the coronavirus disease a day on average. When the Covid-19 wave was at its peak in the country in mid-September, this number was 93,617 cases a day. This is a 70% drop in cases in three months, and it takes the Covid outbreak in India back to levels that were last seen in mid-July. While the Indian wave has been receding since mid-September, even as recently as October and November, there were regions such as Delhi, Kerala, West Bengal and Rajasthan that were still defying the larger trend and reporting rising cases. This is not true anymore. This is the first time numbers are receding in every major state in the country.
It gets even better in terms of testing. In the past week, 2.9% of all samples tested in India have come back positive for Covid-19 — the lowest this number (known as the positivity rate) has ever touched since the government started releasing testing figures. India’s dropping positivity rate tells us two things — first, the testing strategy currently being enforced is adequate; second, the rate of spread of the virus in the community is being brought under control. According to the World Health Organization, if the positivity rate remains 5% or below for two weeks, a region can be said to be keeping its outbreak under control and is testing adequately. India’s positivity rate has been below this threshold for 24 days now. India’s Covid-19 numbers have clearly taken a turn for the better.
But the government, and the people, can’t get carried away. Trends in Europe and the United States must serve as a strong reminder of how the situation can quickly go out of control even if the first peak is contained. And each subsequent wave abroad has been stronger than the one preceding it. So if that holds true for India, and if a second wave hits, it may be devastatingly strong, especially given the fierceness of the first wave. While the Union government has said it has started preparations to start a vaccination programme to cover close to 300 million people by the middle of next year, this is work in progress and others will remain vulnerable. India has done well but must not let down its guard.