Updated: January 11, 2022 11:20:13 am
Two weeks into the third wave in India, a rise in Covid-linked deaths is becoming visible, though the rate of increase is nowhere as fast as the surge in infections.
These deaths across the country — minus those from Kerala — are inching towards the three-figure mark after remaining in double digits for more than a month. However, compared to the second wave, deaths as a proportion of the infection numbers are still very low, as of now.
During February and mid-March last year, India was reporting over 100 deaths on an average, when the case count was between 15,000 and 20,000. These numbers began to rise sharply after that. But that is also because the rise in daily cases was much slower the previous time — it had taken more than a month for the count to increase from 12,000 to 25,000. In contrast, the case count has shot up from less than 10,000 a day on December 28 to nearly 1.8 lakh now.
The trend in death numbers usually trails the infection trajectory by about two weeks. Therefore, the impact of the surge in infections on the death numbers would begin to show only now. Crucially, the trajectory of death numbers from now would reveal how mild the Omicron variant is, how effective the vaccines have been, and how prepared the Government is to deal with the surge.
Kerala is an exception since it has been reporting the largest number of Covid-related deaths in India for over four months now, accounting for over 80 per cent. The state has reported an average of 242 deaths every day after September, mainly because of inclusion of previously uncounted deaths, distorting the pan-India death trend.
Outside of Kerala, the death count in most states had fallen to single digits — on some days, less than 50 deaths were reported. These levels were last seen ahead of the first wave in 2020. That is changing now. On Sunday, 86 deaths were reported: Maharashtra, Delhi and West Bengal accounted for 16, 17 and 18 deaths, respectively.
A month ago, nearly 20 states were reporting zero deaths. That number has come down to barely a dozen now. In states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat or Jharkhand, very few deaths were being reported over the past three months, sometimes one or two in ten days. More deaths are now getting recorded in these, and other states, on a daily basis.
The Omicron variant, which is causing the third wave, is known to produce a milder form of the disease, and it is expected that fewer people would develop serious illnesses or need critical care. Even fewer are likely to succumb to the disease. But as more people get infected in a very short period of time, the death numbers are not likely to remain unaffected.
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