Coronavirus deaths in India crossed 9,000 on Saturday, with the country adding the last 1,000 deaths in three days.
Maharashtra, Gujarat and Delhi account for roughly two-thirds of all deaths in India, which recorded an average of 377 deaths every day over the past week.
On Saturday, the death toll touched 9,196, having crossed 8,000 on June 10 and 7,000 on June 3. With 321,405cases as on Saturday night, India’s case fatality rate is2.9%, compared to the world’s 5.5%.
In all, India’s Covid-19 toll has increased by at least 6,000 in less than four weeks, with total deaths crossing the 3,000 mark on May 18. The toll in India touched 1,000 on April 28, 47 days after the first Covid-19 death was confirmed in Hyderabad on March 12.
Over the past 24 hours, 7,135 Covid-19 patients have been cured and returned home , taking the recovery rate is 49.95%, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare data. The number of recovered patients continues to remain more than the number of those with infections, 162,271 to 149,938.
“I think mortality per million population is a much better metric to judge how Covid-19 has affected us. The case fatality rate can change depending on the denominator of the number of people who are tested and turn out to be positive,” said Amit Singh, associate professor at the Centre for Infectious Disease Research, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.
With the number of cases rising rapidly following the easing of restrictions, experts say the focus must be on preventing deaths. “To reduce the number of deaths, cities and states have look at the number of people being hospitalised. If that number shoots up, then the beds and ventilators will be occupied, leading to more deaths. So wherever the number of hospitalizations is going up, the local governments need to implement lockdown measures. By unlocking at a time when the number of cases and hospitalizations are rising, we are doing more harm than good,” said Singh.
Where lockdowns are not an option, the next best thing is to use personal protection measures such as face masks, frequent handwashing and maintaining social distancing of at least 2 metres, experts say.
“Reducing the exposure of the vulnerable, which includes the elderly, people with co-morbidities, and pregnant women should be done as much as possible. My mother is 90 (years old), I wear a mask even at home. Young people have to step out to work, but they must take precautions to stay safe so they don’t expose older people at home to infection, which can potentially kill them,” said Dr Dileep Mavalankar, director, Indian Institute of Public Health Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
Gujarat has the second highest number of deaths after Maharashtra, and is among the five cities -- along with Mumbai, Delhi, Thane and Chennai -- that account for close to half of the Covid-19 cases in the country. The state’s case fatality rate, at 6.3%, is also the highest in India.
“The hotspots have begun shifting to newer areas and in Ahmedabad, new infections are going down in the central-south zones such as Dariapur, Shahpur, Danilimda, Jamalpur, and Saraspur, among others. Only sero-surveillance data from the hotspots will indicate whether it’s (because of) herd immunity or whether the virus has exhausted susceptible people in these wards, which is leading to a reduction in cases and deaths.” said Dr Mavalankar.
Sero-surveillance is simply blood tests conducted to test for the antibodies to the virus that causes the disease. Their presence indicates past infection and, more importantly, immunity.
A multi-city sero-surveillance being conducted by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to estimate the fraction of the population that has past exposure to Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, in containment zones is ongoing.
The results of the population-based serosurvey in districts with zero cases and low, medium and high incidence released by ICMR on Friday said 0.73% of the population had been infected with Sars-CoV2, which indicates that a large proportion of the country’s population is still susceptible to infection. Still, this survey was conducted in early May, a month when India added at least 150,000 new cases.
Health ministry data on Saturday said 885 labs have been approved to test for Covid, of which 642 government labs do free testing, and 243 private labs charge a maximum of Rs 4,500. Testing in the past 24 hours reached 143,737, taking the total number of samples tested to 5.5 million to date, which translates into a little over 4200 tests per million population.
“Testing is an important component of surveillance and guides contract tracing, isolation and treatment. It also shows where response efforts need to be directed to combat the disease. India has been calibrating its testing strategy as per the changing situation, taking into account scope, need and capacity. With increased testing, the trajectory of positive cases will go up – but it will also help in better preparedness and response,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, World Health Organisation South East Asia Regional Office.