Covid-19: what you need to know today
In the first 29 days of November, India recorded 1,248,778 (approximately 1.25 million) Covid-19 cases and 15,020 deaths. Both numbers are low enough to be comparable to July, when the country recorded 1,109,138 (roughly 1.1 million) cases and 19,140 deaths. In fact, even the deaths in June (12,081) are comparable to the number in November, and occurred as a consequence of far fewer cases (only 394,867). With the exception that the deaths in a particular month do not always correspond to the cases of that month, the norm, globally, has been to assume a delay of two weeks, but even this is an approximation because sometimes people succumb to the sickness in days, and sometimes lasts for months: this is a good indication of how progressive fatality rates have decreased in India, just as they have in other parts of the world. India’s stated goal, articulated by the Ministry of Health, is to reduce this number (a ratio of those who die from Covid to those infected) to below 1%. Since June, when it was 3.06%, the monthly fatality rate has decreased: to 1.73% in July, to 1.45% in August, to 1.26% in September, to 1.25% in October (September and October were the months when India recorded the peak of the first wave of coronavirus disease) and 1.2% in November.
Given that the trajectory of the pandemic remains flat (for now), it is likely that December, at least the first half of the month, will see a further drop in the fatality rate. The number of active cases, as of November 29, was less than 450,000. The corresponding figure, at the end of October (October 31) was around 570,000, and was around 940,000 on September 30. In two months, India has halved the number of active cases, something that has also been reflected in easing some of the tension in hospitals, except in Delhi, where a sudden increase in cases during the third wave (which the capital seems to have left behind) caused a shortage of critical care beds or intensive care units (ICUs). As I wrote earlier, if India manages to get through this week without showing a noticeable increase in cases due to the festivities and celebrations of two weeks ago, it can expect the trajectory of the coronavirus disease to settle on a long plateau like the second wave. begins.
That means that both the central government and state governments can begin to consider resuming more activities and ease some of the remaining restrictions. It is important that governments prioritize what is important. India has prioritized agricultural and industrial activities, political activities (filled with large-scale public gatherings and rallies), and recreational activities. It is time that education was seriously considered in terms of ensuring that college admissions for the 2020 academic year are complete (not yet in some states); resume school education; and planning for college admissions in the 2021 academic year. The 2020 academic year has already been significantly interrupted, and if the Center and states do not act soon, 2021 could also see some interruptions.
Many states have begun discussing a large-scale reopening of schools (currently, some states have reopened schools for high school students). Some want to do this in January, others already in December. This is understandable, but a general plan and protocols are needed for how schools and universities (and the cities and districts where they are located) will address localized outbreaks that are likely to follow a reopening. Unfortunately, India doesn’t seem to have a plan yet, and this is an area where it fares very poorly in a global comparison. In many other countries, schools were the last to close during closed shutdowns and the first to reopen, and even many of these countries have been criticized for prioritizing industrial, economic and recreational activities over education.