Tracking the coronavirus pandemic: First signs of a 2nd wave
The number of daily new confirmed cases in Delhi has been rising for about a fortnight now. The Union territory reported more than 7,500 new cases on Thursday.
Delhi is in the midst of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of daily new confirmed cases in Delhi has been rising for about a fortnight now. The Union territory reported more than 7,500 new cases on Thursday. As the focus continues to stay at the national capital, data from other states suggests that India may be beginning to see the second wave of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
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Daily new cases have stopped dropping
India saw an increasing trend of daily new confirmed Covid-19 cases for about six months after the infection first started spreading in the country. The number of daily new cases peaked just short of the 100,000 mark on September 10 (when 99,181 new cases were reported). This was followed by a decreasing trend in the daily new cases till the end of October before the rate of decrease slowed and the curve of daily new cases flattened. To be sure, the daily new cases significantly decreased earlier this week, mainly due to a decrease in the number of tests conducted over the weekend, which coincided with the festival of Diwali. An average of 45,800 new cases were reported in India on Wednesday and Thursday, which is a little more than the average of daily new cases reported on weekdays last week. Recorded cases typically lag tests by a day. Only 735,551 tests were conducted on Sunday as compared to an average of 1,09,8200 every weekday last week.
How this is a sign of the second wave
The trajectory that the graph of the daily new cases in India is following — it first rose to a peak, then decreased and is now stagnant — has been similar to that in other big countries which have seen subsequent waves of the pandemic as well. This has been seen in the US (it is in its third wave of the pandemic now), the United Kingdom (which seems to be near the peak of the second wave), Russia and Italy (both are seeing much stronger second waves). The subsequent waves in the US and Russia came almost immediately after the daily new cases from the previous wave stopped dropping. In the case of Italy and the UK, there was a longer gap between the first and the second wave.
Cases are again increasing in some big states
Time will tell how the case trajectory in India moves, but data from several of India’s big states other than Delhi shows that the cases there have started to increase in the last fortnight. These states include Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab. Union territory Chandigarh has also shown a slightly increasing trend in daily new cases. These states and Delhi are home to nearly a quarter of India’s population. Three of these states — Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan — were among those that led the first wave of the pandemic in the country. These are big states, so a sharp increase in cases there is bound to increase the national case tally. To be sure, there are other big states where the trajectory of daily new cases continues to decrease, such as Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
How bad will the wave be?
India is far better prepared to handle a surge in Covid-19 cases than it was when the infection first started spreading. The country also has more resources for testing. The world in general is now better aware of what treatments work and how to handle the symptomatic and asymptomatic cases. India’s monthly case fatality rate — new deaths as a share of new cases — has been decreasing over time: It was 3.24% in April but fell to 1.15% in October. But even as the country may be better prepared and more aware, a steep surge in cases could overburden the country’s health care infrastructure and thereby lead to higher fatality rates. This makes it all the way more important to take precautions such as wearing a face mask and maintaining social distancing norms.