A social distancing sign is pictured as people visit a Christmas Tree Farm.(Reuters)
A social distancing sign is pictured as people visit a Christmas Tree Farm.(Reuters)

Covid-19: What you need to know today

India’s overall seven-day average of daily cases has also inched up from the 39,000-levels seen last week, and was 43,379 on Monday. That’s still lower than the 66,396 it was on October 15.
By R Sukumar | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON NOV 25, 2020 01:28 AM IST

There is now a growing consensus that India is seeing the emergence of a second wave of Covid-19, something that Dispatch 206 on November 18 first pointed out.

The numbers pretty much speak for themselves. Seven of the 11 states that accounted for 76% of cases (on the basis of a trailing seven-day average as on November 23), have seen a resurgence of cases over the past month-and-half (since October 15). I have excluded Bihar and Uttar Pradesh from the analysis because of their continued insistence on using rapid antigen tests (RATs), which are unreliable.

The three states that have actually seen a decline in this period are Maharashtra, which, with 1.78 million cases and 46,653 deaths to date, has been ravaged by the virus; Kerala; and Tamil Nadu. Among them, Kerala is now the second-highest contributor to the country’s daily total, after Delhi.

The others have seen an increase either from lows seen over the past month-and-a-half, or even above levels seen on October 15. For instance, Delhi’s seven-day average of cases on October 15 was 2,885. The corresponding number on November 23 was 6,445. Other states that have seen an increase from their October 15 seven-day averages are: Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, and Rajasthan.

Chhattisgarh’s daily case numbers dipped in early November but have risen again, although they are still lower than the October 15 average. So have Madhya Pradesh’s. And West Bengal’s seven-day average of cases has remained pretty much the same. It was 3,627 on October 15, rose to the 4,000s in late October, but is now back at 3,622.

India’s overall seven-day average of daily cases has also inched up from the 39,000-levels seen last week, and was 43,379 on Monday. That’s still lower than the 66,396 it was on October 15. Still, with winter setting in north and north-west India, and threatening to be more severe this year than it has been in recent years, there’s growing concern about the rising numbers.

Worryingly, the seven-day average of daily deaths has also increased — from a low of 491 on November 17 to 525 on Monday. Much of this, though, is propelled by a surge of deaths in Delhi — from a seven-day average of 39 on October 15 to 114 on November 23. Together, these 11 states accounted for 76.3% of daily deaths (seven-day average) on Monday.

The really good news at the national level is that the overall positivity rate (seven-day average) is still below 5%. It was 3.95% on November 23, though this number is skewed by the low positivity rates of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh that conduct a lot of tests, all rapid antigen ones. Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, and Rajasthan ended November 23 with a higher average positivity rate than they had on October 15.

Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have seen their average positivity rates rise from lows seen over the past month-and-a-half. West Bengal’s still remains high (and has stayed almost constant) at 8.22% (it was 8.59% on October 15). And Maharashtra’s is still over 5%, at 6.75%, although this is half the 13.80% seen on October 15. Kerala’s positivity rate, too, has fallen from the 15.9% it was on October 15, but at 9.92%, it is still high.

Based only on their average positivity rates, it is clear that Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and West Bengal are not testing enough. Nor, despite the increase in testing in recent days, is Delhi. While four vaccines have now shown efficacy in protecting people from the viral infection, none has been approved yet. The most optimistic assessment of experts is that frontline health workers in India may be vaccinated in early 2021.

To manage the second wave, then, states will have to test more (and use the right test), trace diligently, and isolate effectively.

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Choudhury also blamed the Trinamool Congress for allowing the BJP to strengthen its base in the state.(Sanjeev Verma/ Hindustan Times)
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