Last year, 10 states saw a surge in covid-19 infections during the festive season even as cases dropped in the rest of the country. Only 16% of the population in these states has received both jabs
During last year’s festival season in October and November, covid-19 infections shot up in 10 states even though they had begun to subside in the rest of the country. As this year's festival season approaches, these 10 states need to exercise caution as only 16.4% of their population has received both doses of the vaccine, data shows.
Last year, during the two months when India celebrated Dussehra and Diwali, the first wave of the pandemic was receding. Average daily cases fell by 45% during this period. However, in 10 states—Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal—the cases went up by 17% post-festivities.
While these states have given 784 doses per 1,000 population as of 30 September, higher than the national average of 645 doses per 1,000 population, there are variations within states. The top performer, Himachal Pradesh, has administered 1,122 doses per 1,000 population, 2.5 times more than Uttar Pradesh.
Similarly, while Himachal Pradesh and Delhi have covered over 30% of the population with both the doses, Uttar Pradesh has covered only 8.5%. The number is 16% for West Bengal and Punjab.
Worryingly, the pace of vaccination slowed down last week in these states by at least 2.1%, with the exception of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, where it grew by 2.1% and 12.3%, respectively. Broadly in India, vaccination pace dropped to 7.1 million daily doses, from 9.75 million last week.
India slid from the top to the third spot in the weekly vaccination coverage growth among the most populous countries. The drop was due to a marked slowdown after the record 22.8 million doses administered on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's birthday on 17 September. Coverage growth slowed to 5.6% from 7.9%.
Bangladesh and Indonesia reclaimed the first and second positions, respectively. Bangladesh ramped up its pace by almost 1.2 times, thanks to a nationwide campaign its government launched on 28 September to vaccinate 8 million people to mark its prime minister’s birthday.
Indonesia is also rapidly accelerating its vaccination drive, after it received 122,400 AstraZeneca doses from Singapore earlier this week, as it seeks to reopen its tourism-dependent economy. At the current pace of 50 doses given per 100 people, Indonesia lags behind its south-east Asian neighbours. The Indonesian government is currently weighing in on a proposal to administer a free third dose to its 114 million-strong lower income population.
India reported 176,086 cases this week, down 18.6% from last week, and its lowest since March. Only 10 states reported more cases this week compared to last. Each of them reported fewer than 150 new cases, except for Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Mizoram. Tamil Nadu reported 105 more cases than last week, mostly owing to Thiruvarur district, which reported 124 new cases this week.
Fourteen of the 23 districts in West Bengal reported an increase in infections this week. Six of them—Kolkata, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Nadia, Howrah and Hooghly, all neighbouring districts—account for 64% of its total cases.
Cases in Mizoram rose for the 16th straight week, as its weekly tally crossed 9,000 cases for the very first time. Aizawl accounted for 65% of the state’s cases. Kerala has 143,546 active cases, the highest in India, but its weekly tally of confirmed cases has been declining.
India reported 2,009 covid-related deaths this week, 5.3% lower than last week, and its lowest toll since late March. Eight states and Union territories reported no new deaths, while 15 reported fewer than 10 each.
Kerala’s weekly deaths dropped below 1,000 this week, but still more than than the next eight states put together. Maharashtra at number two reported 347 deaths this week. Eleven states have reported more deaths this week than the last. The Haryana government added 64 deaths to the official tally earlier this week, due to a reconciliation exercise. Most of them were added to the districts of Sirsa (40) and Rewari (12). In the other 10, this week’s tally rose by less than 15 each.
While the infections and deaths have come down, last year’s experience shows that they can go up during the festive season. It’s key for India to accelerate the pace of vaccination.