It has taken roughly four months and a half for the UT COVID tally to cross the 1,000 mark, but with the current doubling rate of 30 days, the city is likely to have at least 2,000 cases by the end of August.
Doubling rate of 31 days
After recording the highest single-day spike of 44 cases on Wednesday, 38 more COVID-19 patients were diagnosed in the city on Thursday, taking the total tally of patients in the city to 1,016. With the current growth rate of 3.2 per cent, it is likely that cases will double to at least 2,032 patients roughly by the end of August.
The doubling rate of cases, which is calculated by using the average growth rate of COVID-19 cases in the city in the past seven days, is only a rough parameter by which one can project the growth of the pandemic in the future. This is because the rate of growth of cases is likely to change, and considering the surge of cases in the city recorded in July, likely to increase, thereby shortening the doubling rate further.
The UT Administration has made similar projections regarding the number of COVID-19 by August in the city.
According to data shared by a source from the health department, the city is likely to have at least 1,514 cases by August 15, out of which 1,269 will only need a bed without oxygen support, 149 will require a bed with oxygen support, 75 will require a bed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and 38 might require a ventilator.
According to these estimates, these will leave 1,786 vacant beds, 661 vacant beds with oxygen support, 33 vacant ICU beds and 28 vacant ventilators.
However, these are at best conservative estimates, and if the growth rate of cases in the city continues to remain the same or increase, the UT Administration will have to think of ways to extend their infrastructure and human resources to cater to the growing burden of the disease.
Ratio of active cases more than doubled in July
Apart from the spike in total reported cases in the city in July, a more worrying trend is the ratio of active cases to the total cases, which spiked from 15 per cent at the end of June to 36.1 per cent by the end of July.
This is a huge spike in the number of active cases in the city, considering that between May and June, the number of active cases had considerably dropped even while cases kept increasing in the city.
There were 94 active COVID-19 cases in the city by the end of May, which decreased to 76 by the end of June, only to spike to 355 by the end of July.
Furthermore, while the ratio of active cases continues to rise, the recovery ratio of patients continues to drop, from more than 82 per cent at the end of June to 62.5 per cent as of Thursday evening. In early July, the Chandigarh Administration had declared that the UT had the highest recovery rate in the country, which is evidently no longer the case.
The ratio of active cases is calculated simply by dividing the number of active COVID-19 patients, i.e. patients who are still considered to be suffering from the disease, by the total number of confirmed cases reported in the city and turning that ratio into a percentage.
The same method is used to calculate the recovery ratio, with the number of recovered patients as the numerator.
The implication of a growing ratio of active cases is simple, i.e. cases continue to rise in the city at a level which cannot compete with the rate at which patients are deemed as ‘recovered’ considering that it takes at least 10 days for new patients to recover even if they are asymptomatic while an average of 20 to 30 new patients are diagnosed with the novel coronavirus in the city every day.
As compared to Chandigarh, even states like Tamil Nadu and Delhi, which have one of the highest burden of COVID-19 cases in India, have a relatively smaller ratio of active cases and a larger recovery ratio.
Tamil Nadu, which has the second highest number of cases in India, currently has an active cases ratio of 24.6 per cent while their recovery ratio is 73.8 per cent. In Delhi, which has third highest number of cases, active cases ratio is now as low as 8.1 per cent and recovery ratio is as high as 89 per cent.
Furthermore, the neighbouring state of Punjab has an active case ratio of 29.3 per cent with a recovery ratio of 68.3 per cent. Haryana has an even lower active cases ratio of 20.2 per cent and a recovery ratio of 78.6 per cent. Both the neighbouring states also have a significantly larger burden of COVID-19 cases.
“It is clear why Delhi has a lower count of active cases and a higher recovery rate, because the curve is flattening here for now. So these numbers are only indicative of whether the burden of the disease is increasing in the area, which seems to be increasing in Chandigarh now,” says a public health expert based in Delhi.
The expert adds that a recovery rate is not indicative of poor health infrastructure either, adding that Chandigarh does indeed have a significantly better public health infrastructure than Delhi.
“But of course as cases rise, one should not be complacent with the resources available. They should ramp up testing and surveillance to be prepared for the burden that they will be facing soon, keep check of the beds and ventilators they have,” the expert adds.
Lowest number of tests conducted in Chandigarh
Chandigarh is lacking in its minimal efforts to test and screen its population despite international organisations like WHO stressing the need to ‘test, test and test’ in order to efficiently curb the pandemic.
In absolute terms, the UT has tested less than every other UT and state in India. In terms of tests conducted per million people as well, Chandigarh falls in the bottom 10 of a list of 33 states and UTs of India, having tested only 11.6 thousand per million of the population.
All other union territories of India, including Ladakh, which has a small population of 2.74 lakh people as per the 2011 census, have tested much more than Chandigarh has.
Furthermore, the UT has a positivity rate of 7 per cent now, which also indicates a low testing rate. “A positivity rate more than 5 per cent indicates that you are not testing enough. This along with the tests per million data is representative of whether a state or UT is conducting enough tests,” says Rijo M John, a health economist based in Kerala.
However, the administration finally decided to ramp up testing by announcing on Wednesday that PGIMER has been instructed to conduct serological survey by using antibody tests and rapid antigen tests as well. UT Adviser Manoj Parida confirmed that 2,000 antigen test kits have already been ordered.
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