Home / News / India /  India’s covid caseload is much higher, says ICMR

India’s official coronavirus case count has significantly underestimated the number of infected people, according to a national serological survey conducted by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

The study estimated that 6.47 million Indians were infected by the coronavirus by mid-May.

That compares with the official tally of 85,856 as on 15 May, indicating that millions of sick people were left undiagnosed and may have unknowingly spread the virus.

For every covid case that was detected in May, there were 82-130 infections that went undiagnosed, according to the study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research.

The overall seroprevalence, or the number of people exposed to SARS-CoV-2 by mid-May,was just 0.73% of the Indian adult population, the study found.

The low prevalence indicates that India is still in the early phase of the epidemic, much below the herd immunity threshold, when the virus can no longer spread easily. Health experts estimate herd immunity to kick in once at least half the population has developed immunity to the deadly virus.

Meanwhile, infections in India are growing faster than any other country in the world, with the number of new daily cases nearing the 100,000 mark, substantially higher than the US, which has the highest caseload in the world.

ICMR’s serology survey was conducted between 11 May and 4 June in 70 districts. Serum samples of 28,000 individuals were tested for covid-19 antibodies.

Public health experts claim that India is likely to have a long peak. “First the infection was in urban areas, so the peak was observed, but slowly infection has moved to small cities and rural areas of the country where more than 60% of the population lives, so we are going to have a bigger long peak," said Dr Jugal Kishore, professor and head, department of community medicine, Safdarjung Hospital.

The only positive sign in India is its high recovery rate of 77.65%. Epidemiologists said that despite high recoveries, India’s covid-19 situation remains critical with the ICMR study, also stating that the majority of the population is still susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infections.

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