Despite a surge in Covid-19 cases which are now nearing 3 lakh, India had so far taken comfort in the comparatively low number of deaths relating to the virus in the country. Though the number of daily reported cases breached the 8,000 mark on May 29 and has been above 9,000 for most of last week, the daily death count had so far remained miraculously below 300.
Well, till Wednesday.
According to worldometers, India reported 388 deaths on June 10. This was a significant rise from the previous few days — 246 on June 9, 266 on June 8, 261 on June 7 and 297 on June 6 — and substantially higher than the average of the first nine days of the month — 257.
Coupled with the highest single-day death count, the 10th of June also witnessed the highest single-day spike in cases. Again, according to worldometers, India registered 12,375 cases on Wednesday which was almost 25 per cent higher than the average of the nine previous days!
The simultaneous surge in cases and deaths should worry India. But even more alarming is the fact that rate of growth of deaths is catching up with the rate of growth of cases. The country’s Mortality Rate has been remarkably low thus far. As we test more, the cases should rise at a higher rate than the corresponding number of deaths, thus it is not surprising to see the Mortality Rate fall from 3.41 per cent on April 15 to 3.28 per cent on May 1 to 3.21 per cent on May 15 to 2.83 on May 31.
However, there has hardly been any fall in the Mortality Rate in the 10-day period from June 1 – basically after most of the severe restrictions were lifted and the country moved from the lockdown phase to the Unlock phase. The Mortality Rate on June 10 stands at 2.82 per cent —— decimal points lower than the corresponding number at the beginning of the month.
We compare the cumulative number of cases and deaths every 15 days from April 15 to May 31 and see that the rate of growth of cases was always higher than the corresponding rate of growth of deaths.
This trend, however, is almost broken when we compare the cumulative numbers on June 10 with May 31 – with the rate of growth of cases and deaths almost equal!
Another interesting metric to look at is the Daily Mortality Rate and compare the numbers between June 1-10 and May 22-31. We find that the average for June 1-10 at 2.79 is significantly higher than the corresponding average for the previous 10 days at 2.51. There were three days in the period June 1-10 where the Daily MR was in excess of 3 compared to one such day between May 22 and 31. A day to day comparison shows there were 8 days in the period of June 1-10 where the Daily Mortality Rate was higher than in the period May 22-31.
So while India may have, so far, done a great job of containing deaths, especially in comparison to most Western European countries, this stagnation in the Cumulative Mortality Rate and a rise in the Daily Mortality Rate in the last 10 days is alarming.
There were 5,408 Covid-19 deaths in a little over two months in the lockdown phase. Post June 1, there have been 2,699 deaths, that is, almost 50 per cent of that number in just 10 days.
Coupled with this are reports of under-reporting of deaths from Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai — if substantiated this will only lead to an increase in the Mortality Rate.
The peak in India is, at best, a couple of months away and the rate at which cases are rising, the health infrastructure in the country will collapse at some point which will lead to a dramatic increase in the mortality numbers.
Even with a lowering Mortality Rate, India is staring at a disaster in terms of absolute number of Covid-19 deaths in the next couple of months. However, if the recent trend continues and the Mortality Rate actually increases, it will be a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions.