India coronavirus cases: Delhi seems to be demonstrating the perils of celebrating early in an epidemic that is still evolving. For most of July and August, the national capital gave the impression that it had achieved the peak of the coronavirus pandemic and embarked on the downhill journey. The detection of new cases had come down to below 1,000 a day, deaths were being reported in single digits, or early double digits, every day, and recoveries were outnumbering the new cases on most days, thereby bringing down the number of active cases to just about 10,000.
But it seemed just too good to be true. The cases have begun to rise again for the last two weeks. In the last three days, more than 2,000 new cases are getting discovered. On Thursday, more than 2,700 new infections were detected, the highest in more than two months. The last time these many cases were detected in Delhi was on June 28.
It is not very clear what is leading to this rise, and it is possible that the trigger could be very recent. That is because the second round seroprevalence survey in the national capital, carried out in the first week of August, had shown that the spread of the disease had not increased very substantially from the time the first round was conducted about a month earlier. The first round of seroprevalence survey in Delhi had had indicated that about 23 per cent of Delhi’s population could have been infected by that time. In the second round, 29 per cent of the surveyed population was found to be infected. That meant that the disease wasn’t spreading at a very fast rate between the two surveys, which was consistent with the data from this period, but it did leave the room open for a rapid spread later, because a large proportion of the population still remained susceptible, having been uninfected till then.
A serological survey is done to detect the presence of specific antibodies, and is used to assess the prevalence of a disease in the population. The test indicates past infections (and which triggered an immune response), and is not used to detect active infections.
A seroprevalence test conducted now could possibly show that the disease had spread to much higher proportion of the population. The recent rise is being attributed to the return of migrant workers, the opening up of economic activities, and relaxations in movement. But experts believe the prolonged decline in case numbers could also have induced complacency in the public, leading to a drop in compliance of physical distancing norms and wearing of masks.
With the metro rail network restarting operations from next week, there is a possibility of cases rising even further. The Delhi government has said it was ramping up testing facilities to ensure that at least 40,000 samples could be tested every day. On Thursday, more than 32,000 samples were tested in Delhi, the highest so far. The nearly 470 mohalla clinics are being equipped to carry out coronavirus diagnostic tests as well.
A similar resurgence is being seen in Maharashtra as well, with the state touching a new high of daily infections every few days. For most of August, Maharashtra had been reporting between 7,000 and 11,000 new cases every day. But that has begun to rise steadily since the last week of August. On Thursday, more than 18,000 new cases were detected in the state for the first time.
Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh, are the two biggest contributors to the recent surge in numbers in the country. For the last nine days, Andhra Pradesh has been reporting between 10,000 and 11,000 new cases. The state has already overtaken Tamil Nadu to have the second highest caseload in the country, after Maharashtra.
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For the second successive day on Thursday, more than 83,000 new cases were detected in the country. The total number of people who have so far been infected with the virus has gone up to 39.36 lakh, and it looks all set to cross the 40-lakh figure on Friday. If that happens, it would be the fastest half a million addition to India’s coronavirus count. More than five lakh cases would get added within a week.