The number of Covid-19 cases in India crossed 40,000 and the national capital saw its highest single-day spike on Sunday, with the contagion in the country largely driven by urban hot spots, even as the central and state governments sketched out plans to relax some of the lockdown curbs in low-risk areas from Monday while putting in place measures to prevent a jump in infections.
According to data by state health departments, 2,616 new patients were diagnosed on Sunday, taking the country’s total tally to 42,527 cases including 1,393 fatalities.
Delhi on Sunday reported 427 new cases, its highest increase in one day, as the number of infections in the Capital rose to 4,549 including 64 deaths.
While cases across the country have steadily increased since March, the latest 10,000 infections were recorded in 5 days, two days fewer than it took for the tally to go from 20,000 to 30,000. It took about 43 days for India to record its first 10,000 positive cases.
Of these, the three worst-hit states — Maharashtra, Gujarat and Delhi — accounted for 56.5% of the fresh infections, signalling how metropolises have become breeding grounds of the highly infectious disease that has ravaged countries worldwide and brought the global economy to a standstill.
The Union government has maintained that the country is on the right path in controlling the infections and that the spread of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is slowing down.
Data shows that India’s doubling rate — the average period it takes for infections to double — has gone up from four days at the beginning of April to around 11.5 days as of Sunday.
“If in last 14 days, the doubling rate was 10.5 days, then today it is around 12 days,” Union health minister Harsh Vardhan told reporters in Delhi on Sunday. He said India’s mortality rate, which is 3.2%, is among the lowest in the world, and added that the country was “on the path of success” to win the “war” against Covid-19.
At 12,947, Maharashtra has the most number of Covid-19 cases in the country, of which 8,800 are in India’s financial capital Mumbai. Authorities fear that the number of infections could balloon if the disease spreads in Mumbai’s Dharavi , the slum colony that has 850,000 residents and where about 590 cases have been reported so far.
Maharashtra is followed by Gujarat, with 5,428 cases recorded till Sunday. Other cities such as Madhya Pradesh’s Indore (over 1,500 cases) and Uttar Pradesh’s Agra (over 500 cases) have also emerged as hot spots.
While public health experts have lauded India’s action in enforcing strict nationwide lockdown on March 25, when there were just over 500 positive cases, they say the next few weeks will be crucial for the country to flatten its curve of infections so the health care system is not overwhelmed.
The developments come a day before the 3rd phase of the nationwide lockdown comes into effect. Although the Centre extended the lockdown till May 17, it has allowed relaxations according to zones – red, orange and green – that are categorised by the perceived risk of the disease’s spread.
“The challenge ahead lies that cases do not leak from red or orange zones into green zones as then we can say the curve has truly flattened… In many ways, the map of India will change for a few months, and your actions will evolve based on the colour coding of country’s map,” said Dr Randeep Guleria, director of AIIMS Delhi and member of the national task force for Covid-19 outbreak.
To ensure that India is prepared to handle a spike in infections, the Centre has scaled up health infrastructure and testing capabilities. A total of 1,046,450 tests were conducted by Sunday, with over 74,000 samples being tested daily, according to the health ministry.
“Our strategy remains to strengthen surveillance, effective contact tracing, and scaling up testing so that all positive cases are traced, tested, isolated and treated, and to cut the chain of transmission,” said a senior health ministry official.