Complacency, more testing, "re-opened" economy driving India's coronavirus spike
India, the third worst-infected nation, on Sunday recorded nearly 80,000 new coronavirus cases — a first for the nation, but, not entirely surprising. For the last four days, ending Sunday, the country has been recording over 70,000 cases daily.
Experts attributed this surge in cases to increased testing, curbs being relaxed to open up the economy, and complacency among citizens, reports PTI.
India's death toll is next to only US and Brazil
With Sunday's record spike, the total number of cases now stands at 3,619,169. The death toll swelled to 64,617.
To give a perspective, in the worst-impacted nation US, 187,224 have died and in the second worst-hit country Brazil, 120,896 people lost their lives.
Yesterday Uttar Pradesh (6,233 new cases), Madhya Pradesh (1,558), Rajasthan (1,450), and Arunachal Pradesh (157), reported record single-day spikes.
As economy is opening up, people being careless: Expert
Speaking on the record-breaking numbers, Dr. Samiran Panda, Chief of the Communicable Diseases Department at the ICMR, the nodal agency leading India's battle against the disease, said people are not adhering to the precautions (like donning masks and maintaining social distancing) religiously.
"With the opening up of the economy, complacency is being seen among people (in) following COVID-appropriate behavior," Dr. Panda told PTI.
Spike not unexpected, it is scattered: ICMR's Dr. Panda
Noting that the rise in cases was not unexpected, Dr. Panda pointed out that it isn't a "homogeneous phenomenon."
"It is happening in some pockets and among groups, where there is an intermixing of the susceptible population and asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cases which is leading to a transmission of the disease," he said, adding that controlling the same is a challenge.
India has tested more than 4 crore samples
Dr. Panda also said that amplified testing led to the surge in numbers.
On Sunday, India tested 10.5 lakh samples, taking the total number of tests conducted since the outbreak to over 4.14 crore, reports NDTV. For every million population, India is testing 30,044 samples.
However, virologist Shahid Jameel said this is not a good enough reason to celebrate.
Another expert believed India isn't testing as much
Meanwhile, Jameel, who leads the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance, told AFP, "Testing per million in India — at 30,000 — remains the second lowest in top 10 (virus-infected) countries. Mexico is lowest at about 10,000."
At this stage, government's efforts can't stop coronavirus transmission
In an interaction with TOI, Jameel put the onus on people to stop transmission. He asserted guidelines related to wearing masks, hand hygiene, and distance were not being honored diligently.
Former IMA Chief Dr. KK Aggarwal, who is now the President of Confederation of Medical Association of Asia and Oceania, said, the number of cases can't be brought down only by the "government's efforts".
Lockdown meant to "prepare" people; mortality rate must be low
If the trend continues, Dr. Aggarwal said, India would surpass the US and Brazil's tally in six weeks.
He said surge, when the economy is opening up, was bound to happen, adding that the lockdown period was supposed to "prepare and sensitize people."
"What's more important now is to put a check on mortality. So government efforts should focus on mortality reduction," he said.
India will enter Unlock 4 stage on September 1
Notably, a strict lockdown was enforced to stop the transmission on March 25. Meant initially for 21 days, the lockdown was extended, though some relaxations were given.
Starting September 1, India will enter the "Unlock 4" stage. As per guidelines released by Centre, metro rail services will resume in a graded manner from September 7, but educational institutions will stay shut till September 30.