Rural south India is becoming new Covid-19 epicentre

A medic takes swab samples for the Covid-19 test (PTI)
A medic takes swab samples for the Covid-19 test (PTI)


Even as the virus continues to spread across the country, India’s vaccination pace dropped to 1.39 million daily doses over the past week, the slowest rate since the second week of March.

Even as the number of covid-19 cases have declined nationally over the past two weeks, the pandemic continues to spread at a faster pace in rural areas, particularly in the south, the latest numbers show.

Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have the most number of rural districts that have seen sharp rise the last two weeks. Of the 30 rural districts that have seen at least 1000 additional weekly cases in the last two weeks, Karnataka has 10, Tamil Nadu has seven, and Andhra Pradesh has five.

Among the 30 districts, Anantapur (Andhra) and Bellary (Karnataka) added over 5000 cases over the past week. Erode (Tamil Nadu) saw close to 4000 cases over the same period.

Amravati, the only district from Maharashtra in the list, saw its weekly cases go up by 1027, a 18.4% growth. In fact, of the 26 rural districts in Maharashtra, only six saw the number of cases going up. In contrast, in Andhra Pradesh, seven of the eight rural districts saw the cases going up, with Anantapur reporting the biggest spike.

Drawing from the multi-tiered 2011 census definition of urban units, we have considered districts with a population density of below 400 persons per sq km as rural in this analysis. Rural districts typically have weaker medical infrastructure and lower testing capacity, which means many cases go unreported. Nonetheless, the infection numbers provide a rough sense of the emerging hotspots.

The 30 worst-infected rural districts together account for 4% of India’s total population according to the last census but they account for 12% of the country’s caseload now. Two weeks back, they accounted for just 5% of the total cases.

Rising Deaths

Even as new infections declined in some of the early hotspots such as Maharashtra and Delhi, the death toll has continued to rise, partly because of delayed reporting. Maharashtra and Karnataka reported the most deaths in the country over the past week with 5514 and 2594 deaths respectively. Karnataka’s numbers dropped by 17.8% over the week.

Uttarakhand and Tamil Nadu reported the highest percentage growth in covid deaths over the past week. Uttarakhand reported 1080 deaths this week, up 30% from last week. Tamil Nadu reported 1966 deaths this week, almost double of what was reported a fortnight ago, led by Chennai, Kancheepuram, Vellore, Thiruvallur, and Kanniyakumari districts.

The concerns around underreporting of deaths, especially in rural India, continue to grow, even as ground reports showed crematoriums and burial grounds struggling to accommodate the dead.

Big Drop

India’s vaccination pace dropped to 1.39 million daily doses over the past week, 33% lower than the previous week, as supply constraints forced several states to limit their vaccination programs. The current pace is the lowest weekly pace since the second week of March. Among major states, Himachal Pradesh continues to lead in vaccines per capita with 300 doses administered per 1,000 people. Delhi with 260 doses per 1,000 people has crossed Kerala (239 doses) to occupy the second position.

West Bengal, Punjab, Telangana remain at the bottom of the list of average doses given in the last week. While West Bengal and Punjab each administered 2 additional doses for every 1,000 people in the preceding week, Telangana gave only one dose for 1,000 persons. In stark contrast, Delhi and Uttarakhand, have given 27 doses and 13 for 1,000 people respectively. These numbers are however lower than in the previous week when these two states gave 36 and 29 shots for every 1000 people respectively.

Chinese Scale

China continues to lead the world in cumulative vaccine doses given. It has administered 28% of the total doses given globally. (It has administered more doses than all countries in North America). India maintained its third position on that metric, behind the US. But in terms of doses per capita, India stands 7th among the top 10 most-populous countries, numbers from Our World in Data show. At 42%, Japan continues to register the fastest growth in doses administered, but on a low base. Last week, it had increased by 30%. India’s vaccination pace is among the slowest in this set of countries.

The government has curbed exports of vaccines to ease domestic supply shortages. With growing demand, Johnson & Johnson has joined hands with Telangana-based pharmaceutical company, Biological E to manufacture its single shot covid-19 vaccine in the country, potentially making it the fourth vaccine to be available in India after Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V. Government spokespersons claim that vaccine supply will improve in a few weeks time. If that happens, India could possibly escape a disastrous third wave. is a database and search engine for public data

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