Big spike in Delhi, grim milestone for Mumbai
- On Thursday, there were 81,413 new infections reported across India, the highest single-day increase since October 1, 2020, as the second wave of Covid-19 continued to push cases to levels not seen in the country in at least six months.
With 8,646 fresh cases of the coronavirus disease, Mumbai on Thursday set a new all-time record of daily infections in any city in the country, even as Delhi witnessed yet another massive single-day spike with 2,790 new cases, a 114-day high for the Capital.
On Thursday, there were 81,413 new infections reported across India, the highest single-day increase since October 1, 2020, as the second wave of Covid-19 continued to push cases to levels not seen in the country in at least six months. India’s highest single-day caseload was 99,181 on September 10, according to the HT dashboard.
The phenomenon of massive infection surges in a string of urban centres across the country in the past few days is reminiscent of how massive pockets of infection hotbeds emerged in several metropolitan cities during India’s first Covid-19 wave from July to September last year.
The second wave of the outbreak is dangerously expanding its footprint throughout the country at a time when the vaccination drive has finally started gathering momentum – India on Thursday opened its Covid-19 vaccination programme to everyone over the age of 45 years.
Experts and government officials alike have repeatedly stressed that a massive and widespread inoculation drive is the best, and perhaps the only chance the country has to turn the tide against the building second wave of infections, which is particularly dangerous because of the threat of new variants.
At the same time, experts have called for more curbs on gatherings, functions, marketplaces, and public congregations.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has called for an urgent meeting to review the city’s Covid-19 situation on Friday. The action plan to be discussed in Friday’s meeting will include issues such as containment zones, the vaccination drive, availability of hospital beds, and enforcement against violators of Covid-appropriate behaviour. Imposing restrictions on public gatherings and public places in the city will also be discussed, officials familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.
Pushed by Mumbai’s massive Thursday surge, Maharashtra’s tally for the day touched 43,183 – yet again breaking all previous records for single-day infections. The state, which has been by far India’s worst-hit, has been forced to impose a series of curbs on social movement in order to quell the worst spell of the outbreak. Starting Sunday, the Maharashtra government imposed a night curfew, and has banned all gatherings of more than five people in any public place across the state. It is also said to be considering the closure of malls and gyms.
India’s second Covid wave started towards the second half of February with an uptick of infections in Maharashtra. The current case trajectory in the western state has long surpassed the peak that it saw during the first wave in the middle of September — the seven-day average of daily infections in the past week in the state is 36,476, against the first wave-peak of 22,149. It is likely that the surge is being powered by what scientists called VOCs or variants of concern, mutant versions of the coronavirus that are more infectious.
Two other states – Gujarat and Punjab – have also seen their case trajectory surpass all previous records in the last two weeks. Meanwhile, case trajectories in another three regions – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Chandigarh – are fast closing the gap on their first peak highs.
Mumbai’s Thursday surge of 8,646 new infections breaks the previous national record of 8,593 daily infections for a city set by Delhi on November 11, 2020. At the time, Delhi was going through its third wave of infections. Over the past week, however, the Capital has seen the start of its fourth wave of infections – the only region in the country to have seen as many distinct waves, although at least one of them is likely to have been the result of a faulty testing strategy that artificially lowered the number of cases.
Surges in Delhi and Mumbai, however, are not isolated instances. Many other densely populated metropolitan cities such as Pune, Bengaluru and Chennai are also currently seeing a strong rise in daily infections. There were 4,200 new cases in Pune on Thursday, while Bengaluru saw 2,906 new infections and Chennai 1,035. Pune, much like Mumbai, is currently in the midst of its worst-ever case surge – the city set a new record of daily infections (4,625) just this Sunday.
During the Union health ministry’s weekly Covid-19 briefing on Tuesday, senior officials had warned states that the situation is going from “bad to worse” every passing day. “In some states in particular, there is a huge cause for worry, so no state, no part of our country, no district should be complacent,” NITI Aayog member (health) Dr VK Paul said.
In a letter to states on Tuesday, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote: “…the current rise in cases is of concern and has the potential of overwhelming health care systems, unless checked right now.”