Even while the overall situation has been showing a steady improvement in the last two months, the coronavirus pandemic in India crossed a grim milestone on Friday night, with the number of infected people crossing the ten million (one crore) mark.
India is only the second country in the world, after United States, to have more than ten million confirmed infections, but the epidemic here now seems to be in a state of steady, possibly irreversible, decline, while several other countries in Europe and the Americas are currently in their worst phase of the pandemic.
The United States has been reporting between 2 and 2.5 lakh cases a day, while Brazil is detecting over 50,000 cases every day. In Europe, countries like Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Russia are in the midst of a major resurgence of the epidemic, with more than 20,000 people getting infected in several of these on a daily basis.
At its worst, India had been finding over 90,000 infections a day in the middle of September, before an unexpected turnaround happened, leading to a consistent decline in the number of new cases being reported. The result has been that from a peak of over ten lakh cases in the third week of September, the active cases have come down to just about three lakh now. That means that more than 95,000 people have already recovered.
There has been a corresponding drop in the number of coronavirus-related deaths as well. Through entire September, more than 1,000 deaths were being reported every day from across the country. That number has now come down to below 400. So far, about 1.45 lakh people are known to have died due to the disease in India.
The fact that the downward trend in detection of new cases has survived the prolonged festival season, state assembly and local body elections, and the steady removal of restrictions on movement and gatherings of people, has given rise to optimism that the decline of the disease in India may be permanent. Since other possible reasons for decline in numbers, like low testing, or universal adoption of face masks, are also ruled out, some experts and scientists are now inclined to believe that the actual disease prevalence in the population could already have reached a very high proportion, much higher than the serosurveys have been suggesting.
That means that a substantial proportion of the population, possibly 40 to 50 per cent or even more, has already been infected, and gained immunity, thereby bringing in some community-level protection to others. However, there is no empirical evidence to support this argument right now, and only a widespread countrywide serosurvey can reveal the actual situation.
Declining numbers, in the meanwhile, have eased the burden on the healthcare workers and health infrastructure. States like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, which at one point, were reporting between 8,000 and 10,000 new cases every day, have now been finding cases in hundreds. Kerala is the only state right now which is still consistently reporting around 5,000 cases per day.
The slowdown has meant that it took almost a month (29 days) for the total confirmed cases to move from 90 lakh to one crore. During September and October, ten lakh cases were getting added in less than two weeks.
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