57% of India under curbs as deaths soar on Black Friday
India recorded 1,340 deaths due to Covid-19 in a single day on Friday, setting a new record for daily deaths as the devastating statistics of recent days came into stark focus with a steady stream of bodies pouring into cremation and burial grounds, and people seen lining up in a desperate wait for beds outside hospitals.
The country added 233,869 cases on Friday -- the most it ever has in a single day.
The crisis has forced much of the country to retreat into some form of curbs, which will restrict more than half of India’s population (57%) to their homes as curbs in 15 states and Union territories come into force in the form of for night or weekend curfews.
Prior to Friday, the last time India recorded the most number of deaths in a day was on September 15 when 1,284 people succumbed to the disease. To be sure, on June 16, more than 2,000 deaths were recorded but that was due to Delhi and Maharashtra reconciling pending fatality data in a single day.
According to an analysis by HT, over the next two days, more than 700 million people across the country will be under either a curfew for a limited time period or one that extends 24x7 with largely only essential services allowed.
Such wide-ranging curfews have been necessitated as India’s second wave of Covid-19 is expanding throughout the country at a never-before-seen pace. For the week ending April 16, India has reported 188,400 new cases every day – this is double of what was seen during the peak of the first wave (93,617 average daily cases for the week ending September 16, 2020).
Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh have imposed curfews that extend all day long, and on all days of the week. In Maharashtra, the curfew will be imposed in all districts for 15 days. In Chhattisgarh, the restrictions are limited to 20 districts, and in Madhya Pradesh to 15 districts. Weekend curfews will be enforced in Delhi, Chandigarh, Rajasthan, and urban areas of 10 districts in Odisha. Uttar Pradesh has imposed a statewide curfew on Sunday. Night curfews, meanwhile, will be in place in hundreds of districts across the country with six states and UTs – Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Bihar, and Chandigarh – completely shut at night. In Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir and Odisha, night curfews are limited to urban areas or districts reporting large number of cases.
Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh are the three worst-affected states in terms of the degree to which their second wave has so far exceeded the first wave peak. The fourth such state is Gujarat, but it has only imposed a night curfew so far. Current weekly average of cases in Chhattisgarh is 410% of the peak of the state’s first wave, this number is 290% for Madhya Pradesh, 265% for Maharashtra.
To be sure, most states have only imposed different versions of night curfews. Around 35% of the country’s population is currently under a night curfew. The regions that have only imposed night curfews are Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, and Bihar. On April 15, the weekly average of Covid-19 cases in these states was 99%, 157%, 128%, 110%, 398%, 67%, and 103% for their first wave peaks, respectively.
Delhi and Chandigarh have also imposed variations of a weekend lockdown in all their administrative regions along with a night curfew. Here the average of cases in the week ending April 15 was 168% and 127% of their biggest peak before the second wave. In Rajasthan and Odisha, the night restrictions extends to urban areas only and in Uttar Pradesh to only 47 districts, but weekend restrictions are statewide. Rajasthan’s weekly average of Covid-19 infections is 168% of its past peak and Uttar Pradesh’s average is 243% of its past peak. Odisha’s current weekly average is only 43% of its last peak. Weekend restrictions of these states make up to almost a quarter (23.8%) of India’s population.
In Chhattisgarh, 81% of the population, 34% of Madhya Pradesh’s population, and all of Maharashtra – which totals to 13% of India’s population – is also under restrictions that extend to all days of the week. Additionally, 3% of the population in Chhattisgarh and 28% of population in Madhya Pradesh is also under a night curfew.
Experts say such limitations on movement of people will slow down the transmission but the impact of such curfews is not likely to be visible for at least a week, if not several days later still, and that too, only if the progress made due to the curbs is more than whatever transmission of the disease occurs during the hours that mobility is unrestricted.
“The weekend curfews will slow down transmission at least during the 48-hour period. Transmission happens from person to person and if mobility is restricted, the transmission will go down. But, it will have a minor impact on the total incidence,” said Dr GC Khilnani, former head of the department of pulmonology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. He said any impact on the number of cases will be visible only seven to ten days after the measure is implemented.
“If infections reduce by 10% in these two days, but between Monday and next Monday they again increase by 10%, then you will not be able to see the difference the lockdown of this weekend will make. If the infection rate stays down during the week too, then only we will see an impact. If the infection increases in between now and then, then the lockdown will just mask the extent of increase during the week,” said Dr Lalit Kant, former head of the department of epidemiology at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).