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Over the past week, Delhi has been under focus for the manner in which its people and healthcare infrastructure have been overwhelmed by the coronavirus. The state had to fall back on lockdown once again as a containment strategy. While Delhi is a cause for concern today, data on reported covid-19 deaths from seven other states suggest they could be hurtling towards a similar crisis that will stretch their health systems, and likely lead to stricter lockdowns in the coming days.

There are 27 states where the number of covid-19 deaths has increased for two weeks running. 7 of them recorded a week-on-week increase in deaths greater than Delhi in the past week.

Delhi’s week-on-week increase in reported deaths was 6.1%. Among these seven states, the week-on-week increase was led by Chhattisgarh (17%), Jharkhand (16%) and Gujarat (10%). The other four states where death rates have spiked are Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar. At a weekly growth rate of 17%, a state will see weekly deaths double in about four weeks. At 9%, in eight weeks.

Like Maharashtra and Delhi, Chhattisgarh is another example of how rapidly the virus can multiply and send disease numbers--and the healthcare and economic situation--spiraling out of hand. Last week, Chhattisgarh reported the highest weekly increase in confirmed cases and deaths among all states. Two weeks ago, it registered 299 weekly deaths. Last week, 967 weekly deaths, accounting for 10% of all-India deaths—the third-most among all states.

Growing Spread

As the death curve steepens across states, new infections continue to rise. With 315,909 new cases of Covid-19 in India on Wednesday, India reported the biggest daily increase in any country ever, setting a new record. Given that testing is trailing demand, and is happening with a lag in several states, this number too is probably an undercount of the real caseload.

Worse, the virus seems to be spreading faster across the country than in the first wave. There were 317 districts—or 44% of all districts—that reported more than 1,000 new cases in the past seven days. States with a large number of such caseload districts are Maharashtra, Kerala, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh. There are 70 districts, across 16 states, where the number of new weekly cases exceeded 5,000 in the past week. A month ago, the number of such districts was just nine, all in Maharashtra.


Vaccine Slowdown

The growing spread of the virus is in turn increasing the demand for oxygen and hospital beds across the country. The ongoing crisis has led to a sharp shift in India’s vaccination policy, with the centre allowing state governments to strike their own deals with vaccine companies. But this will be easier said than done, given the prior commitments of vaccine manufacturers, and the steep price they are now quoting.

At the moment, India’s vaccination rate is flagging. In the first week of April, when vaccines were made available to all above 45 years, India averaged 3.6 million vaccine doses per day. This fell to 2.6 million doses over the past week, amid supply constraints. Among key Asian economies, India and the Philippines have faced the brunt of the second wave, leading to new mobility restrictions in both countries. But while the Philippines has been able to raise its vaccination rate, India is still struggling.

Unequal coverage

While India ranks third in absolute number of doses globally, its large population means low population coverage. Among the 10-most populous countries for which vaccines data was available, India was ranked sixth on cumulative doses per capita, according to data portal Our World in Data. In this grouping, only the US has managed a high coverage of its population.

Among major states, Kerala, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat lead on vaccines per capita. Maharashtra, which remains the epicentre of the current wave, lags far behind these states. Some of the other high caseload states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Jharkhand lag even behind Maharashtra in vaccine coverage.


For India, the current harsh reality is a surge in cases, while health infrastructure struggles to keep up and vaccines take time to ramp up. More and more state governments are opting to impose lockdowns, of different intensities, to avoid descending into a situation like Delhi or Maharashtra.

www.howindialives.com is a database and search engine for public data

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