In a significant improvement, the three biggest sources of new infections—Kerala, Maharashtra and West Bengal—added only about 74,000 cases in seven days
After months of bad news headlines about the pandemic, some positive ones have begun to emerge. The waning virus has slowed to an extent that only two states reported more than 20,000 new cases in the past seven days. Overall, India’s daily caseload has reached levels last seen in early July.
On a national level, the pandemic has been slowing down since September, but weekly increments in some states had remained massive in absolute terms. This week though, Kerala, Maharashtra and West Bengal, the source of the most new infections, together added just about 74,000 cases in seven days.
India has added 189,186 new patients in this period, the fewest for a week since mid-July, data from the Union health ministry showed on Thursday. This has taken the total case-load to 9,956,557.
Active cases practically declined everywhere except Uttarakhand. In Delhi, whose third wave has now peaked, the drop was 34%, and in Haryana and Rajasthan, it was around 26%. Rajasthan had been facing a fresh surge in infections in recent weeks, and had been forced to reimpose stringent measures. Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, which had also imposed some night curfews, reported a slowdown, too.
All weekly trends are based on seven-day rolling averages to minimize the effect of volatile and delayed reporting.
The continuing decline in active cases indicates that more patients recover than test positive. In the worst months, the trend was opposite, and had put pressure on healthcare systems.
More than 500 people died in Maharashtra this week, pushing the state’s toll up by 1%. This was a fifth of India’s total covid-related death count this week. But Kerala continued to have the fastest jump in death numbers (8%). Haryana (5%) and Uttarakhand (5%) were next.
With this, the total death toll in India has reached 144,451 as of Thursday.
As at the state level, at the district level too, the worst figures are low by earlier standards. Among all 334 districts with over 5,000 confirmed cases so far, Mandi and Kangra in Himachal Pradesh reported the worst spike in the last week, data from howindialives.com shows. But their jump was just 13% and 12%, respectively. Wayanad in Kerala was next with an 11% jump in its case-load.
In deaths, the biggest spike was recorded by Shimla (14%) in Himachal Pradesh and Malappuram and Kozhikode (11% each) in Kerala.
In the last fortnight, the positivity rate has dropped in all major states, data from covid19india.org showed. But despite the slowdown, states must not get lax on testing for the virus, especially with winter picking up and the year-end rush approaching. Consistently high testing in Delhi has helped tame the outbreak, but West Bengal’s low testing rate amidst growing case-load is a reason for worry.
Globally, the United States continues to add the biggest chunk of new coronavirus cases: nearly 30% of all cases in the last one week. Brazil and India contributed 6% and 3% respectively. India also reported just 3% of all deaths recorded globally in the last seven days. A consistent slowdown has helped the country reduce its cumulative share from nearly 10.5% two months ago to less than 9% now.
The global case count has crossed 74 million, including 1.6 million deaths, data from the Johns Hopkins University showed.
After the UK, the vaccination process began in the US this week, with health workers being given the first dose of the federally approved Pfizer vaccine. Anthony Fauci, the top disease expert in the country, said the vaccines could help the country achieve herd immunity by the end of the second quarter of 2021.
In India, where vaccines are yet to get the approval for public distribution, the government has cleared some air around its rollout plan. Frontline health workers and people above the age of 50 will be prioritized, and the government will also take the help of electoral rolls to smoothen the vaccine distribution. The country aims to vaccinate up to 300 million people by July 2021.
But the arrival of a vaccine is not the sureshot way to avoid getting infected. Though the UK started the vaccination trials first, covid-related deaths have resurfaced. In the last one week, the country recorded more deaths than India, accounting for 4% share globally. Pandemic fatigue must not let impatience creep in, particularly with holiday weeks ahead at the year-end.