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Fact Check: How coronavirus cases doubled in India, elsewhere

Coronavirus (COVID-19): How long did COVID-19 cases take to double from 750 to 1,500, then to 3,000, 6,000 and 12,000? A comparison of doubling rates in India and the 19 countries with a higher case count (until Thursday).

Written by Karishma Mehrotra | New Delhi | Updated: April 19, 2020 4:55:07 pm
Fact Check: How coronavirus cases doubled in India, elsewhere Coronavirus (COVID-19): Doctors check the temperature of people outside LNJP hospital in New Delhi on Friday. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

Coronavirus (COVID-19): On Thursday, the Health Ministry circulated a chart comparing India’s doubling rate for COVID-19 with those of seven other countries, including the six that had the highest number of cases as of that date. Doubling rate here refers to how many days it takes for a country’s case count to double.

While the doubling rate of India’s cases has been largely slower compared to the rates in the seven countries showcased by the Health Ministry, there are 12 other countries that have had a higher number of cases than India, as of April 16, that one can compare with.

The countries with a higher case count than India’s as of April 16 were, from highest to lowest: the United States, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, United Kingdom, China, Iran, Turkey, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Netherlands, Switzerland, Russia, Portugal, Austria, Ireland and Israel.

How coronavirus (COVID-19) cases doubled in India, elsewhere Click to enlarge

Why doubling rate

Doubling rate is one of many metrics that modelling experts are using to assess the spread. It helps one see how quickly the outbreak might grow, even if current numbers are small. If cases grow by the same number every day (linear growth), it is less of a worry. than if cases are multiplying within a short period (exponential growth). In the latter event, the numbers may soon become very large even if current numbers are low. As with most COVID-19 models, this is constrained by each country’s testing strategy.

The Ministry chose four ranges to compare the rates: the number of days in which cases grew from 750 to 1,500; 1,500 to 3,000; 3,000 to 6,000; and 6,000 to 12,000. While the Ministry used its own numbers for India, our analysis compares all countries (including India) using the same single source — the Johns Hopkins University database. Because of this, some of the doubling rates in this analysis are slightly at variance with the rates highlighted by the Ministry.

Coronavirus cases: Phase by phase

For the first phase of doubling (from 750 to 1,500 ), the case count in India took five days, according to numbers from the Johns Hopkins database. This was longer than in any other country. Comparatively, countries such as Iran, Spain, and Turkey took only one day to double in this range.

By the second phase of growth (1,500 to 3,000), India had jumped to the middle of the pack, with cases in seven countries growing slower than in India, and those in 12 countries growing either faster or in the same number of days (three). The countries where the doubling rates in this phase were longer than India’s are: UK, Russia, Portugal, Austria, Netherlands, Brazil, and Ireland which witnessed the slowest growth, with the rise from 1,500 to 3,000 cases taking six days.

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In the third phase of growth, India appears to have contained the outbreak well, with cases taking five days to jump from 3,000 to 6,000. Apart from Ireland, where doubling took eight days, all other countries saw this phase of doubling taking either less time than, or the same time as, in India. In Spain, it took only one day.

In the final phase of growth, cases in India took six days to double from 6,000 to 12,000. Only in four countries was this growth slower than in India. In Israel, growth seems to have significantly slowed, with this doubling phase taking 13 days. This phase took 10 days in Austria, eight in Portugal, and seven in Ireland. Among countries where this phase of growth was faster than in India, the US, Germany and China each saw it happen in the shortest time: two days.

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