Covid-19: what you need to know today
There is now a growing consensus that India is seeing the emergence of a second wave of Covid-19, something that Dispatch 206 of November 18 pointed out for the first time.
The numbers speak for themselves. Seven of the 11 states that accounted for 76% of cases (based on an average of seven days to Nov. 23), have seen a resurgence of cases over the past month and a half (since Oct. 15). I have excluded Bihar and Uttar Pradesh from the analysis due to their continued insistence on the use of rapid antigen tests (RATs), which are not reliable.
The three states that have seen a decline in this period are Maharashtra, which, with 1.78 million cases and 46,653 deaths to date, has been devastated by the virus; Kerala; and Tamil Nadu. Among them, Kerala is now the second largest contributor to the country’s daily total, after Delhi.
The others have seen a rise from lows seen over the past month and a half, or even above levels seen on October 15. For example, Delhi’s seven-day average of cases on October 15 was 2,885. The corresponding number on November 23 was 6,445. Other states that have seen their October 15 seven-day averages rise include: Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan.
The number of daily cases in Chhattisgarh declined in early November but has risen again, although it remains below the October 15 average. Also that of Madhya Pradesh. And West Bengal’s seven-day case average has stayed about the same. It was 3,627 on October 15, it rose to 4,000 at the end of October, but now it’s back to 3,622.
India’s seven-day overall average of daily cases has also risen bit by bit from the 39,000 levels seen last week, and was 43,379 on Monday. That is still lower than the 66,396 it was on October 15. Still, with winter in North and Northwest India, and threatening to be more severe this year than in recent years, there is growing concern about rising numbers.
It is concerning that the seven-day average of daily deaths has also risen, from a low of 491 on Nov. 17 to 525 on Monday. However, much of this is driven by a surge in deaths in Delhi – from a seven-day average of 39 on October 15 to 114 on November 23. Together, these 11 states accounted for 76.3% of daily deaths) on Monday.
The really good news nationally is that the overall positivity rate (seven-day average) is still below 5%. It was 3.95% on November 23, although this number is skewed by the low positivity rates in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which run many tests, all rapid antigen. Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan finished on November 23 with a higher average positivity rate than on October 15.
Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have seen their average positivity rates rise from lows seen over the past month and a half. West Bengal’s remains high (and has remained almost constant) at 8.22% (it was 8.59% on October 15). And Maharashtra is still above 5%, at 6.75%, although this is half of the 13.80% seen on October 15. Kerala’s positivity rate has also fallen from 15.9% on October 15, but to 9.92%, it is still high.
Based on their average positivity rates alone, it is clear that Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and West Bengal are not testing enough. Nor, despite the surge in evidence in recent days, is Delhi. While four vaccines have been shown to be effective in protecting people from viral infection, none have yet been approved. The most optimistic assessment from experts is that front-line healthcare workers in India can be vaccinated in early 2021.
So to manage the second wave, states will have to test more (and use the correct test), diligently trace, and isolate effectively.