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A health worker collects a swab sample at a covid testing centre in Hyderabad.
A health worker collects a swab sample at a covid testing centre in Hyderabad.

Virus spreads in Kerala, Odisha, but slows down in most other states

Chhattisgarh and Punjab, too, are reporting a rapid spread of the coronavirus infection

India became the fourth country to cross 60,000 covid-related deaths this week, even as the infection rate continued to slow down from last month’s levels. Only a handful of major states, such as Kerala, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Punjab, are still reporting a rapid spread of the highly contagious infection.

However, the outbreak is far from over. Only the rate of increase in the numbers has slowed. India’s total tally of coronavirus cases jumped to 3,310,234 as on Thursday morning, according to the latest data from the Union health ministry. This marks a 17% rise over seven days, as compared to 28% at the end of July.

Deaths are still rising fast in some states, but that rate has also slowed. The national toll rose 13% last week to 60,472, and is the fourth worst in the world. Delhi and Gujarat are the only two major states whose curves for deaths have stabilized by now.

Maharashtra’s curve is not worsening, but has been rising at a stable rate. Punjab has been steady, and became the fifth state to cross 1,000 deaths this week. The state’s toll rose 33% this week.

Deaths rose 43% in Kerala in the last seven days, the only major state where the curve steepened during the period.

All calculations are based on seven-day rolling averages, which minimize the effect of volatile and delayed reporting.

Eighteen states have more than 10,000 active cases, but most have crossed the 70% mark in recovery rate, or the proportion of patients who have been discharged. In Chhattisgarh, active cases rose 60% over the past week, the fastest of all states. The weekly pace of rise in active cases is 36% in Odisha, and 31% in Punjab and Kerala. The national rate has declined to less than 5% a week after a sustained slowdown since the 25% growth at the end of July.

The number of active cases now stands at 725,991, while 2,523,771 patients have been discharged. Delhi is close to a 90% recovery rate, followed by Tamil Nadu (85%), Bihar (84%), Haryana (82%) and Gujarat (80%).

Karnataka crossed 5,000 deaths on Thursday. The five states with the most deaths, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, have a total of 71% share in the national death count.

Among the states and Union territories with at least 100 deaths, Kerala (43%), Chhattisgarh (41%) and Puducherry (40%) observed the biggest jumps in their toll this week.

The virus had affected the largest urban centres the most in its initial months. Now, the rate of infection has picked up in smaller towns and rural areas. Among the 110 districts with at least 5,000 confirmed cases so far, the biggest percentage spikes over the last seven days were reported by Shimoga (55%) in Karnataka, Nagpur (46%) in Maharashtra, and Malappuram (42%) in Kerala, data compiled by shows.

Earlier this month, Pune became the worst-hit city in India, surpassing Mumbai’s case count. The city now has 158,269 coronavirus cases.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, data has shown that testing strategies of states can influence the numbers they report. Among the top 10 states, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh have conducted the most tests per million population over the last fortnight, and West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, the fewest, data from shows.

Despite the recent slowdown in the national tally, India is now reporting the highest caseload in the world. Of the nearly 1.77 million new cases globally in the last seven days, India accounted for nearly 27%, the highest in the world. The share in the cumulative death count is 7.3%, but is rising steadily.

In just the last seven days, the country accounted for 17.4% of the more than 38,000 deaths recorded globally, slightly higher than both the US and Brazil.

Worryingly, the trajectory of deaths is still rising fast. Unlike the curves of some other badly-hit countries, India’s trajectory is yet to peak.

Globally, the coronavirus case count has crossed 24.1 million, including more than 825,000 deaths and nearly 15.8 million recoveries (65%), data from Johns Hopkins University shows.

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