COVID deaths double in India in five days

Published : April 10, 2020 12:39 IST

Isolation centre for COVID-19 patients at the NSCI dome at Worli in Mumbai on April 9. Photo: Kunal Patil/PTI

From the time the first COVID-19 case was announced in India on January 30, it took about nine weeks for the cases to reach the 2,500 mark. It took less than a week from then on for the cases to double—to cross 5,000 cases. Similarly, the 100th death was reported on April 6, while the 200th was on April 10.

“A total of 1,44,910 samples from 1,30,792 individuals have been tested as on 09 April 2020, 9 PM IST. 5705 individuals have been confirmed positive among suspected cases and contacts of known positive cases in India. Today, on 09 April 2020, till 9 PM IST, 16,002 samples have been reported. Of these, 320 were positive for SARS-CoV-2,” said a press note from the Indian Council of Medical Reasearch (ICMR) on April 9. A few more results came in by 8 a.m. on April 10.

According to the Union Ministry for Health and Family Welfare’s dashboard, there were 5,709 positive cases as of 8 a.m. on April 10. As many as 199 people had died. Covidindia.org, which aggregates numbers from various sources, put the number of deaths in India at 225. Of the 6,706 confirmed cases, 632 had recovered, according to the site, when accessed at 11:46 a.m.

In Madhya Pradesh, where the Bharatiya Janata Party formed the government on March 23 after the Congress' Kamal Nath resigned as Chief Minister, despite the abysmally low testing, the number of deaths has surged to 33, putting it just behind Maharashtra, according to statistics on Covidindia.org.

On April 9, Odisha became the first State to announce an extension of the lockdown until April 30.

The only bright spot seems to be Kerala, which was the first State to report a COVID-19 case. On April 8, it reported just nine new cases, and the number of deaths from the time the epidemic hit India at two. Because it was the first off the blocks with its testing, at one point, it had the highest number of cases in India. This has now been reversed and the State was out of the list of top five positive States by the end of the first week of April. “International norm for COVID spread is 2.6 per 1 COVID patient. Total number of primary COVID infected who arrived in Kerala from abroad is 254,” tweeted Kerala’s Finance Minister Thomas Isaac. “The secondary spread has been limited to 91. The international mortality rate is 5.75. With just 2 deaths, rate in Kerala is 0.58,” he added on April 9.

Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who has managed a transparent system of reporting and testing, has made it clear that the objective of the efforts was to stop the advance of the virus. “Don’t get trapped in war metaphors; not a mere policing issue,” he tweeted on April 9. “Enforcement is one part; people’s participation matters most,” he added. His four point agenda: support for the affected, communal harmony, [support to] local self governments and [creation of] awareness.

Though some responses from States have been lauded, the approach of the Union government has come in for criticism from many quarters. Prof. Steve Hanke, applied economist, Johns Hopkins University, United States, posted on his Twitter handle on April 8 that “India is testing at very low levels, at just 102 tests per 1 M [million] population. Pakistan is almost dysfunctional, & they are testing more at 191 tests per 1M population. Modi’s lockdown doesn’t identify who’s ill & who’s healthy. Without testing, India can easily spiral into the next Italy."

Earlier, on April 8, he noted: “India has added 533 new cases of Covid19, bringing its official virus count to 5,311. With severe shortage of medical equipment and only 102 tests per 1 million people, [Prime Minister] Narendra Modi’s lockdown is indeed a lockdown without a plan.”

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, too, on April 4, pointed to the lack of testing. “India is simply not testing enough to fight the Covid-19 virus,” he tweeted. “Making people clap & shining torches in the sky isn’t going to solve the problem,” he added.

Despite similar criticism from several quarters, the Centre has preferred to stick to the ICMR guideline of testing only symptomatic patients. There have been several doctors who have warned against this strategy because once the lockdown is lifted, the country might see an exponential rise in the number of cases.

According to the website Covidindia.org, as much as 76 per cent of positive cases in Maharashtra—the State with the highest number of cases so far—are asymptomatic. The World Health Organisation and experts say that asymptomatic people spread the disease as much as those with symptoms.

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