Covid cases climb to 31,000, spike puts deaths over 1,000
The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in India crossed the 30,000 mark on Tuesday while that of fatalities due to the pandemic exceeded 1,000, as the country maintained a precarious grip on a disease that officials fear could peak over the next couple of months.
According data disclosed by state health departments, the total number of Covid-19 infections across India was 31,329 and deaths 1,007 on Tuesday, which recorded the biggest single-day jump in fatalities. Tuesday’s 74 deaths surpass the previous high -- 54 fatalities recorded on Monday -- by a significant margin.
The latest 10,000 infections came over a period of 7 days – a day less than it had taken for the tally to go from 10,000 to 20,000 – with Maharashtra and Gujarat continuing to report some of the biggest spikes even while under a lockdown that has disrupted everyday life at an unprecedented scale.
The two states have a doubling rate for infections at 8.3 days and 8.8 days respectively. The overall doubling rate for the country is 10.8 days, down from 4 days at the beginning of the month.
“If you look at some of the countries where cases are high, you will see twenty countries with the combined population as of India’s have 84 times more coronavirus cases,” said Union health ministry joint secretary Lav Agarwal at the government’s routine briefing on the crisis.
But the outbreak appears to be turning particularly serious in the country’s financial capital Mumbai, which accounts for close to 6,000 of the 9,318 cases across the state as on Tuesday. Of the 393 new cases in the city, 41 were reported in Dharavi, a slum neighbourhood regarded as one of the most densely populated places in the world with close to a million residents.
In Gujarat, 226 new infections were recorded on Tuesday, taking the total number of cases to 3,774 – behind Maharashtra’s 9,318 and ahead of Delhi’s 3,314.
Globally, there are now close to 3.1 million who have been infected and roughly 213,000 of them have died due to the illness. At 57,000 fatalities, the United States is the hardest hit country followed by Italy (27,000 deaths) and Spain (23,000 deaths).
India’s top health officials said the coming days will be the most crucial in determining which trajectory India follows, since some of the lockdown measures will be relaxed in areas that have not been hit hard by the disease.
“The most important thing now to focus on is putting in place aggressive containment measures in identified hot spots, or what we call red zones, so that these (infections) don’t leak into green zones,” said Dr Randeep Guleria, the director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
Guleria added that these measures will need to be paired with “aggressive behavioural change in terms of maintaining hand hygiene, wearing a mask, following cough etiquette” as a way of life for Indians. “The moment will come when we will have to lift lockdown, so we will have to prepare our strategy focusing on areas from where no cases have been reported and that can be opened up for commercial activities, and to ensure the red zones are converted to orange and then green zones,” he said.
“We should manage to successfully segregate the zones, only then we can say the curve has truly been flattened, and will continue to remain that way,” he added.
Flattening the curve refers to the strategy of bringing down new infections to match health care capacity, an approach particularly crucial for a disease like Covid-19 that has spread like wildfire in countries that dithered on announcing tough measures.
The measures have also meant mounting economic losses. Financial analysts Moody’s Investors Services said in an assessment released on Tuesday that the near shutdown of economic activity could bring down India’s GDP growth rate to 0.2% in the current calendar year.
“There are significant downside risks to our forecasts in the event that the pandemic is not contained and lockdowns have to be reinstated. Even without longer-duration lockdowns, a self-perpetuating dynamic could take hold, resulting in large-scale destruction of businesses and entire sectors, as well as a structurally high unemployment rate, a permanent loss of human capital, and persistent malaise in consumption and investment,” the rating agency said in its Global Macro Outlook update.