India on Tuesday touched 5 million coronavirus cases, a disturbing milestone only two countries have crossed in the world. The United States is gradually inching towards the 7 million mark.
What is more disturbing is the pace at which new infections are detected in India where the last one million were added in just 11 days. Also, official data of the previous months show that the country is adding a million at a much faster rate than the US.
It took 135 days to touch the first million infections on July 16 but the second million were added in just 21 days on August 6. From the third week of August, the pace increased further as another million came in 16 days. The next two million came on September 4 and September 15, a gap of 13 and 11 days respectively.
There is no other way to slow down the virus until a vaccine is rolled out. Both the governments and people must understand that if the cases continue to grow exponentially, India will pay a heavy price in the coming months
At this rate, epidemiologists predict, India will cross United States to occupy number one slot in the next 30 days. India’s immediate neighbours — Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Pakistan — meanwhile appear to be better placed, showing a downward trend.
Also, the numbers are growing despite having one of the lowest testing rate in the world. The United States, as of September 14, was testing over 280,000 per million while India is testing just around 37,000. That means, the actual rate of infection in India could be many times higher than the officially reported data.
A sero-survey done from May 11 to June 4 covering 280,000 people nationwide showed that low testing is missing out a large number of positive cases. Blood samples of these individuals detected an infection rate of 0.73 per cent among adult population, significantly higher than found in swab testing.
Rural areas and urban slums, the sero-survey found, has the highest infection rate and most people carrying antibodies were among 18 to 45 years of age.
Normal daily routine
Despite the growing numbers, most large cities have resumed normal daily routine. Except the education sector, metros and malls are open, flights and train services are running, factories are operational and public and private sector offices are functional.
While the government has allowed resumption of economic activity, the lifting of restrictions has also led to irresponsible public behaviour. Anecdotal and visual evidence show mask usage remains poor and social distancing guidelines are not followed.
New infections will continue to fill hospitals unless people follow health safety guidelines. Public health authorities, meanwhile, must find ways to enforce these guidelines and compel people to wear masks and maintain social distancing in public places.
There is no other way to slow down the virus until a vaccine is rolled out. Both the governments and people must understand that if the cases continue to grow exponentially, India will pay a heavy price in the coming months.