Tracking Covid: Kolkata infections double, a lot more to go

By: |
July 15, 2020 7:01 AM

What is worrying, however, is that with the city not reporting any data on testing, there is no way to ascertain whether infections are still rising or not.

At any time, increasing the number of tests done is important, at a time when positivity is rising, it is even more critical.At any time, increasing the number of tests done is important, at a time when positivity is rising, it is even more critical.

Infection levels in Kolkata have nearly doubled in just the last fortnight, making it one of the few big cities in the country with this dubious distinction. The number of Covid-19 infected persons in Kolkata rose from 5,984 a fortnight ago to 10,026 on Tuesday. Among cities that have a somewhat similar population, only Bengaluru saw an almost four-fold jump from 5,290 to 19,702 cases while Delhi’s cases from 87,360 to 113,740, Mumbai from 77,197 to 93,984 and Chennai from 58,327 to 78,573.

What is worrying, however, is that with the city not reporting any data on testing, there is no way to ascertain whether infections are still rising or not. In the case of Delhi, for instance, the positivity levels – new infections as a share of new tests – have fallen from 13% a fortnight ago to 7.4% on Tuesday; Bengaluru positivity continues to rise.

While we don’t have data for testing in Kolkata separately, those for West Bengal as a whole have hardly grown, from 9,619 a fortnight ago to 10,359 today; as a result, the positivity rose from 6.8% to 14% in the same period. At any time, increasing the number of tests done is important, at a time when positivity is rising, it is even more critical.

In terms of testing per million population, West Bengal has one of the lowest rates too. West Bengal tests 6,195 persons per million population versus 39,121 for Delhi, 30,482 for Mumbai, and 13,154 for Bengaluru.

A sure sign that the city is not testing enough can be seen from its higher death rates. If not enough tests are done, people cannot be brought to either Covid-care centres or hospitals on time, and so the fatality rates tend to be higher. While Delhi has a ‘case fatality rate’ – number of deaths as a share of those reported to be Covid-positive – of 3%, Kolkata is as high as 5.1%. Indeed, on May 20, it was 11.8%; as the testing increased, so did the number of Covid cases – it reported 2,961 cases on that day – and, as a result, the fatality rates came down.

Meanwhile, data analysis of over 700 districts across the country shows that infections are spreading from the traditional areas. The share of urban districts – where urban population was over 30% – has declined marginally, from 80.9% to 78.7% between June 10 and July 13. The share of semi-urban areas – where urban population is between 20 and 30% – has risen from 6.6 to 10.1%. The share of rural India in infected persons has fallen from 12.5% to 11.2%.

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