Home >News >West Bengal coronavirus outbreak worsens, testing remains low

The spread of the coronavirus in West Bengal intensified in the second week after Durga Puja, even as the state’s testing rate remained dismal. With nearly 28,000 new infections, the state reported 9% of all cases in India in the past seven days. The state extended restrictions on schools and colleges, with growing risk of a repeat of the outbreak in Kerala soon after Onam festivities two months ago.

Over 54% of the 323,883 new cases last week are from five states and union territories. Kerala and Delhi had the biggest share—15% and 12%, respectively. Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Karnataka were next, data from the Union health ministry showed on Thursday.

But except Delhi, all these five states reported a decline in active cases. This means the national capital faces many more new patients than are recovering every day, adding pressure on the city’s healthcare system. India’s worst-hit city may now be witnessing a “third wave" of infections, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said.

Daily data shows this wave is worse than the first two. Delhi’s 10% weekly jump in caseload coincides with worsening air quality and falling temperatures. Both are said to raise the coronavirus infection risk. Kejriwal said his government would move the Supreme Court to reserve 80% of the intensive care beds for covid-19 patients in private hospitals.

The increase in the death count is not abating in Chhattisgarh, where cases had soared last month. It reported the worst weekly growth rate (19%) in deaths among all states where the toll has crossed 1,000. The rate was 14% in Kerala, and 7% in Odisha.

With this, India has 124,315 covid-related deaths as of Thursday. The pace of increase in deaths has slowed across most states.

All states now have more than 80% recovery rate, or the share of patients who have been discharged. Kerala, Manipur, and Mizoram are at the bottom of this list, since a large chunk of their cases are recent. Some states in the northeast still have rising active cases for the same reason.

District-wise data shows Kerala has some of the biggest hotspots in the country. Ten of the 14 districts in the southern state saw confirmed cases jump over 10% within a week, data from shows. Thrissur (19%), Alappuzha (16%) and Ernakulam (15%), all in Kerala, reported the biggest spikes nationally. Only the 296 districts with at least 5,000 cases so far were considered.

Deaths rose the most in Rajnandgaon (36%) and Janjgir-Champa (26%) in Chhattisgarh, and Thrissur (30%) in Kerala. All calculations are based on seven-day rolling averages to minimize the effect of volatile and delayed reporting.

The positivity rate in Delhi (9%) and Kerala (12%) are high even though they have been among the most proactive in testing, data from showed. Moreover, this rate has risen slightly in recent days. While high testing means a state is making efforts to find those who are infected, an increase in positivity shows even that may not be enough.

Meanwhile, West Bengal and Maharashtra have tested the fewest people per million population in the last two weeks. West Bengal, too, reported an increase in positivity rate, implying the outbreak might worsen if testing is not ramped up.

India's total count of coronavirus patients has risen to 8,364,086 as of Thursday morning. From reporting nearly one-third of all the world’s daily cases in September, the country has now brought down its share to 8%.

The largest share last week was the United States’ (18%), where the presidential elections and campaigning lately has led to a resurgence in infections.

India had a 6% share and the US 12% among new deaths recorded in the past week. The global coronavirus case count has crossed 48 million, including 1.2 million deaths, data from Johns Hopkins University showed.

India’s case-load may appear to be coming under control, but West Bengal, Kerala, and Delhi show this could well be a mirage. Festival risks have been a major spoilsport in multiple states ever since India began reporting a slowdown in the pandemic at the national level. With Diwali just over a week away, increased testing and social distancing will be key to keep India away from a second wave.

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