India’ coronavirus tally hit 99.8 lakh on Thursday, putting the country on course to reach the one crore number on Friday. India now accounts for 14% of the world’s infections outranking Brazil and late on Friday, crossed the one crore mark, becoming the second country after the US to do so.
However, infections have slowed sharply over the last three months. For a brief period in September the daily count was averaging 90,000 but that has dropped to less than 30,000 in the last five days.
Also, the country had done exceptionally well in terms of the case fatality rate. The deaths per million at 104 are one-tenth of those in the US and half the global average of 214. Moreover, India has reported a much lower 7,199 cases per million people compared with 53,108 for the US, 33,347 for Brazil and the global average of 9,658.
Nonetheless, testing capacity needs to be ramped up. While India has come a long way from testing one lakh samples daily in May to nearly 11.13 lakh on December 18, testing has remained stagnant for the past three months.
India ranks a lowly 104th in the world with only 114,637 tests per million people, one-sixth of that in the US.
Also, worryingly despite daily infections having slowed over the last few months, the spread of the virus has increased. Nearly half of India’s districts now have over 5,000 cases; until two months ago, this share was only one-third. The number of districts with over 10,000 cases has jumped nearly 50% from 137 to 210 in just over two months. Moreover, 87% of India’s districts have recorded at least one corona death. Although urban centres still account for two-thirds of total infections, the share of rural areas in total deaths has been going up.
The vaccine may be on its way but India cannot afford to be lax in terms of contact tracing and testing. Infections in north India have been increasing at a faster pace than in the southern states which indicates there may be a resurgence of infections as has been witnessed in the West. The US, which until October was recording a lower number of daily infections than India, is now registering close to 220,000 cases daily.