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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Explained: Not just Maharashtra and Punjab, daily cases slope upwards in several states

In fact, all these states — Delhi, Haryana, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh — have had very similar growth trajectories in recent weeks. They show a steady decline until the first week of February, after which a turnaround has happened.

Written by Amitabh Sinha
Pune | Updated: March 8, 2021 5:20:11 am
Delhi COVID-19 cases, Haryana COVID-19 cases, Gujarat COVID-19 cases, Rajasthan COVID-19 cases, Madhya Pradesh COVID-19 cases, india COVID-19 cases, punjab COVID-19 cases, maharashtra COVID-19 cases, indian expressThe 18,711 cases detected on Saturday were, in fact, the highest since January 1, when 19,079 cases were found. (Express photo by Ashish Kale/Representational))

The rise in the number of coronavirus cases, which had so far looked confined to Maharashtra and Punjab, is now beginning to show in several other states.

The growth states

Delhi, for example, has reported more than 300 cases for the last two days. This had not happened since January 15. While that might not seem alarming right now, considering that, at its peak, Delhi had been reporting more than 8,000 cases a day, it might just be the beginning of a fresh wave.

In Gujarat, the increasing trend has been noticeable for three weeks now. In the last two days, the state has reported more than 500 cases, something that had not happened since January 17. The coronavirus numbers in the state had been on a steady decline in the new year, touching a low of 232 on February 8. But it began to rise again after that, and that trend has continued since.

Similar increases can be seen in Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh as well. The numbers in these states are nowhere close to those in Maharashtra, which for the last two days has been reporting more than 10,000 cases, or even Punjab, which has reported more than 1,000 cases twice in the last three days. But the growth curves are certainly on the ascendancy.

In fact, all these states — Delhi, Haryana, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh — have had very similar growth trajectories in recent weeks. They show a steady decline until the first week of February, after which a turnaround has happened.

Incidentally, this is not very different from the national trajectory. The coronavirus curve in India reached its lowest level in the second and third weeks of February, after which it has begun to rise. In the last two days, more than 18,000 cases have been detected across the country.

The 18,711 cases detected on Saturday were, in fact, the highest since January 1, when 19,079 cases were found.

The rise in the other states is not very surprising. Travel restrictions have not been put in place, and people are freely moving from one place to another. In most states, passengers coming in from Maharashtra are not being mandatorily screened for the infection. What is being seen in these other states could therefore be a direct result of the rising numbers in Maharashtra.

Maharashtra puzzle

The resurgence in Maharashtra itself is not very well explained. None of the reasons attributed for the rise of cases in Maharashtra — people not using masks or following physical distancing norms, family functions, gram panchayat elections, reopening of local trains in Mumbai — is unique to the state. And yet, the numbers have not risen in Bihar or Uttar Pradesh, or even in West Bengal and Assam which are in the midst of a politically-surcharged election campaign, and are witnessing massive rallies every day.

Maharashtra had not reported more than 10,000 cases in a day since the middle of October. In fact, the steady decline over the last few months had seen the numbers go down below 2,000 on a couple of occasions. Mumbai and Pune, two of the worst affected cities had seen their daily numbers dip below 500. Now, Pune looks set to cross the 2000-mark in a couple of days. On Saturday, the district reported 1,925 cases. Pune has already regained the number two spot in the list of worst affected cities, having overtaken Bengaluru. Pune has so far recorded close to 4.2 lakh confirmed infections. Only Delhi, which has a caseload of more than 6.4 lakh, has more.

In relative terms, the resurgence in Punjab is as big as that in Maharashtra, though the absolute numbers are much lower. Punjab had begun to report less than 150 cases a day in the middle of January. But in the last three days, the daily numbers have twice been more than 1,000. On Saturday, 1,159 cases were discovered, which is the highest in five months.

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No rise in deaths yet

In this fresh wave, however, there is no evident rise in the death numbers yet. The trend is that death numbers usually show up after a lag of about two to three weeks following the detection of new cases. But even after almost a month since the cases began to rise, there is no discernible increase in deaths. This number has been in two digits or lower-three digits since the last week of January.

On any given day, no deaths are being reported from between 18 to 20 states, sometimes even more. On Saturday, 100 deaths were reported from across the country. This could indicate that most of the new infections might only be mild in nature. But it might still be a little early to completely rule out an increase in deaths.

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