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A man pushes a shopping cart inside a mall in Mumbai on Wednesday.  (Photo: Reuters)
A man pushes a shopping cart inside a mall in Mumbai on Wednesday. (Photo: Reuters)

9 states termed ‘vulnerable’ as death toll crosses 40,000

  • High population density, porous city and state borders blamed for spike in covid infections
  • India saw a spike in cases after the lockdown was eased, public health experts claimed

The country remains highly vulnerable to the spread of covid-19, though the majority of cases are concentrated in a few states, the Union health ministry said on Wednesday.

This comes even as the virus continues to spread unabated with the number of deaths from the contagious disease breaching the 40,000 milestone on Wednesday, a day after the number of cases crossed the 1.9 million mark.

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Several districts in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha and Gujarat were found to have high overall vulnerability for the disease, according to a recent study by the Population Council in New Delhi published in Lancet Global Health.

The researchers computed a composite index for identification of vulnerable regions at the state and district levels in India for covid-19 on the basis of population and infrastructure characteristics.

The index is based on 15 indicators across five domains, such as socioeconomic, demographic, housing and hygiene, epidemiological, and health system. The researchers used a percentile ranking method to compute both domain-specific and overall vulnerability and presented results spatially with the number of covid-19 positive cases in the districts.

The states mentioned above had high vulnerability according to most of the five domains. The study did not aim to predict the risk of infection for a district or a state, but the researchers observed similarities between vulnerability and the current concentration of covid-19 cases at the state level. However, this relationship was not clear at the district level.

The country saw a spike in cases after the lockdown was eased, public health experts claimed.

“High population density coupled with porous city and state borders are some of the key reasons for India not being able to control the virus spread after the lifting of the lockdown," said Himanshu Sikka, lead, health, IPE Global, a global consultancy company.

“In most urban centres, 30-40% of the population live in areas that do not follow social distancing of any sort. The majority of them depend on crowded local markets for their daily needs, which makes it difficult to ensure people take precautions when moving out," said Sikka.

Within the house also, if one person gets infected, it is difficult to provide proper isolation as most houses don’t have enough rooms and only have a single toilet for use by all family members, he added.

Meanwhile, India continued to test more than 600,000 covid-19 samples for the second consecutive day, the government said. The graded and evolving response resulted in a testing strategy that has steadily widened the testing network in the country.

With 619,652 tests conducted in the past 24 hours, the cumulative testing as on date has reached 21,484,402. The tests per million have seen a sharp increase to 15,568. The increase in testing is also leading to more cases being diagnosed.

The covid-19 testing laboratory network as on Wednesday consists of 1,366 labs—920 labs in the government sector and 446 private labs.

“States with high population density have more cases. A high number of cases are observed in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and West Bengal. More states, such as Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, and more districts beyond dense urban areas are now reporting a surge in cases," said Dr Suneela Garg, director, community medicine, Maulana Azad Medical College, Delhi University.

“The majority of the cases in India are mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic, thereby silently spreading the disease to other community members," she said.

Meanwhile, India also recorded the highest-ever single-day recoveries in the past 24 hours, with 51,706 covid-19 patients recovering, taking the recovery rate to 67.19%. The recoveries till now total 1,306,925 and are more than twice the number of active cases.

There has been a 63.8% increase in recovered cases in the past 14 days, the Union health ministry said.

The country’s case fatality rate has been low when compared to the global scenario and it has been progressively falling, the ministry said. The case fatality rate stood at 2.09% on Wednesday

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