Covid: Infections fall on lower testing, death toll rising

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November 18, 2020 8:15 AM

Given how social distancing norms were flouted during election rallies, one would have expected Bihar to be the corona hotspot by now but cases in the state have come down drastically; it is now recoding an average of 600 infections daily, down from 1,600 a day two months ago.

Given how social distancing norms were flouted during election rallies, one would have expected Bihar to be the corona hotspot by now but cases in the state have come down drastically

The reason for India’s lower infections probably lies in the fact that several states, which were either once hotspots of infections or likely to emerge as hotspots, have scaled back on testing over the last two months. In fact, a look at the fatality rates reveals that despite lower infections, deaths in these states seem to be rising. Cases in point are Bihar, Odisha and Punjab.

Given how social distancing norms were flouted during election rallies, one would have expected Bihar to be the corona hotspot by now but cases in the state have come down drastically; it is now recoding an average of 600 infections daily, down from 1,600 a day two months ago.

Some of this can be attributed to a faulty testing strategy and increasing reliance on rapid antigen tests — Bihar tests 90% of its samples using RAT.

However, testing in the state has also declined from 1.6 lakh tests to 1.2 lakh. Also, until two months ago, Bihar was recording 5.5 deaths per 1,000 but that has jumped to 8.9 deaths per thousand people. In Odisha, while testing has slightly dipped from 48,000 tests a day to 46,000 tests, the current fatality rate has nearly tripled from 3.2 deaths per thousand to 10 deaths per thousand in two months.

Punjab, which has one of the highest fatality rates in the country, was successfully able to decrease its fatality rate to 24 deaths per thousand until a fortnight ago, but as the state has started testing less, the fatality rate has gone back to 44 deaths per thousand. While the home ministry has promised to assist the Delhi government to double testing capacity—Delhi will be testing one lakh samples daily—this needs to be done across India if the country is to get the true picture on the spread of the pandemic.

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