India reported over 2.3 lakh fresh Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, a big jump from the past few days, indicating that reading too much into the apparent slowdown in fresh infections in Delhi and Mumbai would be premature.
Another concern is the sharp spike in the death toll. Deaths outside of Kerala have nearly doubled in the past three days and crossed 170 on Wednesday. Kerala has been adding a large chunk of deaths that were previously uncounted into its daily tally, thus contributing most to India’s daily toll, The Indian Express reported.
However, now, there has been a significant spike in the number of deaths from other states. On Wednesday, Delhi alone reported 40 deaths.
The sharp slowdown in fresh caseload additions in Mumbai over the past five days led to hopes that the city had already passed the third-wave peak. A part of the reason behind the lower figures was a dip in testing during the weekend, but the trend had continued till Tuesday. Compared to almost 21,000 fresh cases on Friday, an all-time peak, Mumbai reported 11,647 fresh cases on Tuesday. However, Wednesday witnessed a sharp rise with 16,420 cases being detected.
Delhi, the first city to witness the third-wave surge, also looked to have entered a slowdown phase following a sharp rise in cases in the first week of January. However, the National Capital reported over 27,000 cases on Wednesday, close to its all-time high of 28,395, which it attained during the second wave last year.
The situation is similar in Maharashtra, the largest contributor to India’s caseload. The state reported over 40,000 cases on January 7, but the number didn’t significantly increase after that, mainly due to the dip in Mumbai. On Wednesday, Maharashtra reported over 46,000 cases, its highest in the current wave.
A slowdown was noticed at the national level in the past five days, with the rise in daily cases not being as rapid as during the first week of the month. The seven-day moving average of new cases has been rising at a much slower rate. It took eight days for the daily caseload to rise from fewer than 10,000 to over a lakh. In the past five days, it has risen from 1.40 lakh to 1.95 lakh.
However, this trend could change anytime, with Wednesday witnessing a large increase in cases. With 10 Union Territories and relatively smaller states yet to report their figures, the case count has already gone past 2.3 lakh.
JUST BEGINNING IN SOME STATES
While West Bengal and Maharashtra went into the third wave early, several states are just beginning to see their numbers surge. This includes states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh that, because of their large populations, have the potential to log very large numbers. During the second wave, Uttar Pradesh had hit a peak of more than 37,000 cases, while Bihar had added close to 16,000. Uttar Pradesh reported 13,592 cases on Wednesday, while Bihar recorded 6,413.
Among the major states, only West Bengal has surpassed its second-wave peak so far. Other states, including Kerala, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh are below their peaks at present.
RELATIVELY LOW POSITIVITY
India’s positivity rate has jumped over the past two weeks, but is nowhere near the levels seen during last year’s second wave. The positivity rate — the proportion of people testing positive out of the total people being tested — is a good indicator of the spread. India’s weekly positivity rate had jumped to 9.18% as on Tuesday against just 1% at the beginning of the year, suggesting a fast-spreading infection this time.
During the second-wave peak last year, the weekly positivity rate had passed 22%. But that was also because the peak then was reached much more gradually with a very large number of people returning positive tests over a period of over two months.
The rise has been sudden and steep this time. Additionally, the third wave is nowhere near its peak, with several estimates suggesting that it would easily surpass the 4.14-lakh mark attained during last year’s second wave.
The death count, however, has been the most noticeable indicator. The Omicron variant, which has been driving the third wave, is known to cause mostly mild diseases and was not expected to cause many deaths. But as the third wave entered its second week, the death count is showing a clear upward trajectory.
On January 10, non-Kerala deaths crossed the three-digit mark for the first time and have risen sharply since then. India witnessed 111, 146, and 177 deaths respectively from states other than Kerala over the past three days.
Delhi reported 40 deaths on Wednesday, the highest outside of Kerala. Maharashtra and West Bengal reported 37 and 23 deaths, respectively. Six states, apart from Kerala, are reporting double-digit death figures. Until December last week, about 20 states had been reporting zero deaths. That figure has dropped below 10 states now.
Health authorities told The Indian Express that most of the deaths were incidental, with people dying of other causes after getting infected with the virus. Deaths due to the coronavirus continue to be few, and only among people with serious comorbidities.