Coronavirus (COVID-19): As India stepped out of the second phase of its lockdown, and into a more relaxed third phase, there were already signs of a surge in the number of novel Coronavirus cases in the country. With the lid now off in many places, and significantly loosened even in some of the worst affected areas like Mumbai and Pune, India could see a rapid rise in the infection numbers, which in any case, were increasing by record margins every day for the last four days.
By the end of day on Sunday, the total number of confirmed cases in India had reached over 42,500. At the start of the lockdown on the midnight of March 24, India had just 525 cases. And while the six intervening weeks seems to have done little to prevent the spread of the virus, the fact is that the numbers could have been multiple times higher in the absence of the lockdown.
If we ignore the first three cases detected at the end of January in Kerala, and start from March 2 when the fourth infected person was discovered, it took 14 days for the Coronavirus cases to reach 100 from zero, and almost exactly 14 days to travel from 100 to 1000 which was reached on March 29. In another 15 days, the 10,000-figure mark was also reached. The spread was showing a characteristic exponential growth, and at that rate, India was poised to have 100,000 cases by the end of April.
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But by the second week of April, the lockdown had finally begun to show its impact. The growth trajectory was altered significantly, and the numbers, while still rising, were considerably lower than where the exponential growth would have taken it. At the end of April, there were less than 35,000 cases. And with nearly 10,000 of them having recovered, the effective number of people who could transmit the disease to others was not more than 25,000.
With many restrictions now eased, even in the red zones, a spike in numbers is not unexpected. In fact, there has been a significant increase in the daily numbers in the last four five days as well, though this has nothing to do with the second phase of lockdown nearing its end. There is a lag time before the impacts of imposing or easing of restrictions become evident. So the spike due to relaxation in the lockdown would start to be seen at least only a week later from now.
On Sunday, India reported the addition of 2693 cases of novel Coronavirus, the highest single-day rise so far. In fact, the last four days have all touched new highs. Some new trends have begun to show up. Delhi has reported unusually large numbers in the last two days – 384 on Saturday, and 427 on Sunday – and there is no clear reason why that has happened. Prior to the weekend, Delhi was routinely adding about 100-150 patients every day, though on a couple of occasions it did have more than 200 patients in a day.
There has been a sudden spurt of cases in Punjab as well, and here the reason is not well known. The pilgrims who returned from Nanded in Maharashtra have become a major cluster. The state which was reporting 10 to 20 cases earlier, is suddenly having to deal with hundreds of cases every day. On Sunday, there were 331 new cases, 270 of them in Nanded pilgrims. The state tally has gone up to 1102, out of which 609, or 55 per cent, are those who returned from Nanded. The state tally has nearly tripled in the last five days, and, for the first time, Punjab is now among the top ten states with maximum caseloads in the country.
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Tamil Nadu has also been growing at a fast rate in the last few days, and it has now overtaken both Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in total case numbers. With 266 new cases on Sunday, Tamil Nadu now has over 3000 confirmed cases, the maximum after Maharashtra, Gujarat and Delhi.
The number of deaths on Sunday was relatively lower. After touching a high of 93 deaths on Saturday, the figure came down to 66 on Sunday. Prior to that, more than 70 deaths had been reported for four consecutive days last week.