Covid-19: What you need to know today

Irrespective of whatever else the numbers prove (or don’t), they clearly establish that: one, we seem to be getting better at saving lives (which, a previous instalment of this column wrote, was in evidence even globally) and two, the number of daily cases has been increasing.
A boy tosses a carrom striker as he plays inside a care centre for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) patients at an indoor sports complex in New Delhi, India.(REUTERS)
A boy tosses a carrom striker as he plays inside a care centre for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) patients at an indoor sports complex in New Delhi, India.(REUTERS)
Updated on Jul 21, 2020 03:26 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByR Sukumar

India crossed the 40,000 cases-in-a-day mark for the first time on Sunday. Should one be worried?

In the month between June 20 and July 19, the country added 705,097 cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), according to the HT dashboard. That translates to 63.14% of the 1,116,597 cases it saw (cumulatively) till July 19.

In the same period, it saw 14,209 deaths, 51.6% of the 27,487 cumulative deaths till July 19.

But there is good news as well. The period saw 472,179, or 67.42% of the 700,324 recoveries from Covid-19 till July 19. On June 20, India’s recovery rate was 55.44%. On July 19, it was 62.71%. On June 20, India’s death rate (measured by the case fatality rate) was 3.22%. On July 19, it was 2.46%.

Even when measured as a proportion of closed cases (deaths plus recoveries), the death rate has seen an improvement between June 20 and July 19 — from 5.5% to 3.77%.

India had 170,077 active cases on June 20; and 388,786 on July 19.

Also read: Delhi records lowest Covid-19 cases reported since June 1

Irrespective of whatever else the numbers prove (or don’t), they clearly establish that: one, we seem to be getting better at saving lives (which, a previous instalment of this column wrote, was in evidence even globally) and two, the number of daily cases has been increasing.

The first is important because it establishes that the increase in daily deaths (now consistently close to 700 as compared to consistently around 400 a month ago) ,while worrying, is offset by the fact that the proportion of those recovering is rising. The second is important because, when disaggregated across states, cities, and districts, it tells administrations where hospital beds and health care intervention are most needed.

The increase in the number of daily cases has also come against the backdrop of increased testing. India was conducting an average of 177,439 tests on June 20. That increased to an average of 327,048 tests a week on July 20 (all averages are five-day ones). I’ve previously written about the relationship between cases and tests: as testing increases, the number of cases as a proportion of the tests (a.k.a. the positivity rate) increases to a point, then plateaus, and finally starts declining. Delhi, for instance, is clearly seeing a decline — as is Mumbai (although the Maharashtra numbers are now being driven to new highs by cases from the larger Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Pune, and other parts of the state). Tamil Nadu is continuing to identify more new cases as it tests more (the state has carried out the most tests in India in absolute terms, around 2 million), but its positivity rate has come down from its peaks and continues to remain in the 10-12% range. On Sunday, for instance, the state saw 4,979 new cases, but carried out 52,993 tests, translating to a positivity rate of 9.39% (a number that is also within the range acknowledged by experts around the world that signifies adequate testing).

Also read | India’s fatality rate lower than global average: Govt

Other states, too, are seeing an increase in cases as they test more. Many of them — and this has been my refrain for weeks now — are still not testing enough, though, which is reflected in their positivity rates (either too low, without showing the waxing and the waning that comes with aggressive and adequate testing, as in Uttar Pradesh; or too high, as in West Bengal). Interestingly, in both states, the positivity rate has been increasing. The average daily positivity rate for the past week for Uttar Pradesh was 4.3%, and West Bengal, 14.4%, which is higher than the cumulative positivity rates in the two states — 3.3% for Uttar Pradesh, and 6% for West Bengal.

Bihar is no different — its cumulative positivity rate is 6.96% and its average for the past week, 14.2%. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal are three of India’s four most populous states (at first, third and fourth positions respectively; Maharashtra is in second).

Which means the number of daily cases in India can be expected to increase even more over the next month, maybe even longer.

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Saturday, November 27, 2021