The number of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases in the country crossed 50,000 on Wednesday, nearly doubling over the course of 11 days, even as limited reopening of businesses made necessary by a sluggish economy triggered worries of another wave of the contagion across hot spots.
The spread of the infectious disease has largely been pushed by urban hot spots in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Delhi, the three worst-hit states. On Wednesday, 3,490new Covid-19 cases were diagnosed and 98more deaths from the disease were reported, taking the total tally to 52,967and fatalities to 1,711.
The latest 10,000 infections were recorded in three days, two fewer than it took for the tally to go from about 30,000 to 40,000. It took seven days for the cases to climb from 20,000 to 30,000. India recorded its first 10,000 Covid-19 cases in nearly 43 days, with a wave of infections beginning in March after three isolated cases were first reported in Kerala in January.
The disease’s doubling rate, which is defined as the average period it takes for a twofold rise, decreased from 11.5 days on May 3 – the cases hit 40,000 on that day – to 10.3 on Wednesday, the first time the figure has significantly reduced during the lockdown. The doubling rate — which is calculated over a period of last seven days — was four days at the beginning of April. Experts say the peak of the outbreak is yet to come. Some projections show the peak for the current wave of cases could hit in four-six weeks, with studies expecting another spurt in winter this year.
On Wednesday, the number of infections in Delhi rose to 5,532 after 428 new cases were reported.
On average, India has reported 2,900 cases over the last five days. The corresponding numbers for the previous five days and those before that were 1,731 and 1,547. The data, which is based on official figures from states, shows that more than a third of the total cases have been reported over the past week.
Maharashtra reported 1,233new cases and 34 more deaths during the day and its overall tally was 16,758. Of these, 10,527 cases – about a fifth of the national tally – have been reported in Mumbai alone. Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said he will hold a meeting with Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray to discuss the worsening situation in the state.
“The situation in Maharashtra is certainly a matter of concern right now as 34 out of 36 districts are affected by Covid-19… Mumbai, Pune, Thane, Nagpur, Nashik, Aurangabad, Solapur, among the 34 districts are a cause of concern for us,” the minister said at a news briefing, adding that a team from the Centre will provide further help to the state.
Maharashtra is followed by Gujarat, which recorded 6,625 cases till Wednesday.
The surge of Covid-19 continued in Tamil Nadu as the state recorded its biggest single-day jump of 771 cases, the majority of them linked to the hot spot of a market in Koyambedu. The total infections in the state stood at 4,829.
Experts fear India’s tally may increase as the government plans to bring back a large number of Indians stranded abroad.
In the first week of a massive air operation expected to begin on Friday, 64 flights will bring 15,000 Indian citizens home from 12 countries. All those who travel back have to pay for their tickets, undergo screening and quarantine after landing. The navy has already kicked off one leg of the evacuation exercise by dispatching two warships to the Maldives.
The Union government has maintained that the country is on the right path in controlling the infections.
While experts have praised India’s action in enforcing a nationwide lockdown on March 25, they say the next few weeks will be crucial for the country to flatten its curve of infections.
On Monday, the third phase of the nationwide lockdown, which allows considerable relaxations in low-risk areas, began after nearly 40 days of strict restrictions.
Experts say that while the impact of the lockdown appeared to have relatively controlled the spread, the gains could get undermined if clusters were not contained effectively, and people not tested widely. The next few weeks will determine the country’s trajectory in managing the outbreak and preventing the health care infrastructure from being overrun.
The number of samples tested for Covid-19 in India crossed a million on Saturday, up from 38,914 on April 1, which took the number of tests to almost 783 per million of the population. The health ministry expects testing to cross 100,000 tests a day soon.