India coronavirus cases: More cases of coronavirus were detected on Thursday than the number of people declared to have recovered from the disease, ending a six-day streak that had raised hopes of a possible slowdown in the spread of the disease. But it was more a case of recoveries dropping down, rather than discovery of new cases going up by any significant amount.
A total of 86,052 new cases were detected on Thursday, slightly lower than 86,508 which were found a day earlier, but the recoveries dropped from 87,374 to 81,177.
For the previous six-day, recoveries had been exceeding new cases, which resulted in the reduction in active cases from a high of 10.17 lakh to 9.66 lakh. The active cases went up to 9.7 lakh on Thursday. Never before have the recoveries been more than new cases for more than two consecutive days, and those were caused mainly by anomalies in reporting data.
This is a keenly-awaited trend because it could signal a decline in the epidemic, but it has to hold for several weeks at a stretch to convey anything meaningful.
There has been a general slowdown in the spread of coronavirus cases in the country, as suggested by the falling growth rates, which have dropped to below 1.6 per cent per day now, from a level of 3 per cent at the end of June.
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But what was happening in the last one week was much more significant. Apart from the recoveries remaining higher than new cases, and the resultant reduction in active cases, the reproduction number R, a key epidemiological metric that measures how fast the disease is spreading, had fallen below 1 for the first time since the start of the pandemic in the first week of March.
A lower than 1 value for R represents a contracting trend. For example, the current R-value for India, as calculated by a team of researchers led by Sitabhra Sinha at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai, is 0.93, which means that, on an average, every group of 100 infected people were passing on the virus to only 93 more. If this trend continues, lesser and lesser number of people would be infected.
These calculations are, of course, dependent on the coronavirus numbers released by the government, and if there is any surge in those numbers, these calculations would also change. Also, the R-value is not an absolute metric. Different researchers can come up with different R-values depending on the computer models they use and the kind of assumptions they make to run those models. But the increasing or declining trends do generally get captured uniformly across all models. And the R-values have been showing a declining trend for the last few weeks, consistent with the falling growth rates.
On Thursday, the testing numbers touched a new high, with almost 15 lakh samples being tested. This is likely to result in a jump in the new cases that would be reported on Friday. The last big jump in the daily new cases had come more than three weeks ago, and another one is due any day now. In the last one week, the testing numbers had been slightly lower than normal, and that could be one of the reasons for the marginal decline in the detection of new cases. Though, it is also true that the trend of recoveries exceeding the new cases was more due to a surge in the recoveries being reported than a drop in the new cases.
After Thursday’s detections, the number of people who have so far been infected with the virus has gone up to 58.18 lakh, out of which 47.56 lakh, or nearly 82 per cent, have recovered from the disease.
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