Pockets of rising infections emerge even as Covid-19 wave ebbs across India
In the week ended November 17, India reported 10,978 new cases of Covid-19 every day on average. This is the lowest that the seven-day average (a number that denotes a region’s Covid curve) has dropped to since the week ended June 14, 2020 – a time when the first wave of the pandemic was just kicking off in the country.
Currently, at the national level, Covid-19 cases continue to decrease, a trend that has largely sustained since the peak of the second wave on May 9, when the daily cases averaged 391,819. However, the rate of decline (of the 7-day average of daily cases) has come down this month; it was 1.3% up to November 17 compared to 1.9% in October. This is because some states and districts have started to exhibit a slight bump in daily cases after the festive season that started last month. While this increase in infections remains small as of now, it reinforces the need for continuing with pandemic-appropriate behaviour and completing adult vaccinations, particularly where local figures are not as satisfactory as at the national level.
Cases have increased significantly in West Bengal and Assam in the past month
Dussehra was celebrated in the country on October 15. The seven-day average of daily cases has increased in 11 of 29 states (including Delhi) in the month-long period between October 15 and November 15. However, this is less a reason for alarm than caution. Of these 11 states, only two – Assam and West Bengal – were reporting more than 100 cases a day on October 15. The 7-day average of daily cases has increased by 10.8% in Assam (from 208 on October 15 to 231 on November 15) and by 26.2% in West Bengal (from 666 on October 15 to 841 on November 15). In the same interval, the remaining nine states have registered a growth higher than West Bengal’s growth of 26.2%, but the 7-day average was still below 50 in all of them on November 15.
Cases have also increased in a few districts of states with declining cases
As is to be expected, in most of India’s districts, cases have declined. Of the 707 districts (Delhi’s districts merged as one) for which data is compiled by How India Lives, the seven-day average of daily cases has decreased between October 15 and November 15 in 222 districts. In another 379 districts, of which 317 reported no cases in the week ending October 15, the average has not changed.
Only 106 districts have registered an increase in the 7-day average of daily cases in the past month. Even among these, only 26 reported an average of 10 or more cases a day in the week ending October 15. Of these 26 districts, 10 are in West Bengal alone and two in Assam, states where cases have increased from a base of relatively higher caseload. 12 of the 26 districts are, however, located in states where cases have decreased in the past month, suggesting the bump may be localised (for now at least). Of these 12 districts, six are in Maharashtra, three in Telangana, and one each in Tamil Nadu, Odisha, and Mizoram.
How much have cases increased in districts?
Among districts that have registered an increase in the 7-day average of daily cases in past one month, five had 100 or more cases a day in the week ending October 15. From October 15 to November 15, Kolkata (44%) and Mumbai (37%) have registered the biggest increase among them.
In other districts, the percentage increase might be higher but that is the result of their low caseload earlier. For example, Kamrup Metropolitan (the district where Guwahati is located) has registered a 292% increase in the past month. But in absolute numbers, the increase is from 25 cases to 98 cases a day. Aurangabad in Maharashtra (22 cases to 38 cases a day) and Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir (35 cases to 56 cases a day) are other districts with a big percentage growth among districts that saw 20-100 cases a day. Although this growth is modest in absolute numbers and can be easily contained, it does emphasise the need for continuing with pandemic-appropriate behaviour such as wearing masks in public places and avoiding crowded spaces.
In 2/3rd districts, less than half of all adults are fully vaccinated
Isolated districts reporting an increase in cases also emphasises the need for enhancing vaccine coverage. Although over 80% of adults in India have now received at least one dose of the vaccine, 44% of the country’s districts (274 of 628 districts of 2011 census with Delhi and Mumbai districts merged into one) were below this threshold on November 17. In 18 districts (eight of them in Nagaland, seven in Arunachal, Manipur and Meghalaya, and one each in Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Tamil Nadu), the first dose coverage is under 50%.
Just one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine also offers less protection from the infection than complete vaccination. At the national level, the share of fully vaccinated adults went past the share of partially vaccinated for the first time on November 16. As of November 17, this was yet to happen in 316 of the 628 districts. While over 40% of adults in the country have been fully vaccinated, at the district level, this threshold has not been reached in almost half (305 of 628 districts) of the districts in the country.
In 75 districts, the share of fully vaccinated adults is 25% or less and in almost 2/3rd districts (414 of 628 districts), the share of fully vaccinated adults is 50% or less.
Since district-level population projections are not available, this analysis uses data on number of electors in the district at the time of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as a proxy for adult population.