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EXPLAINED: Covid-19 Second Wave Daily Cases Fall Below 1 Lakh. A Look At How We Got Here

Shortage of medical oxygen hit health services hard across the country during the second wave

Shortage of medical oxygen hit health services hard across the country during the second wave

Has India turned a corner in its struggles during the second wave, which saw cases skyrocket while the health system gasped for breath.

Daily new Covid-19 cases fell below the 1-lakh mark per the 7-day rolling average for the first time since the beginning of April, a duration of close to 70 days. Daily deaths were also at their lowest level since mid April. As India looks to have turned a corner in the devastating second wave surge that brought health services to their knees and exposed a grave shortfall of critical infrastructure and equipment, here’s how the cases rose and fell during the last few months.

When Was The Last Time Daily Cases Were Below 1 Lakh?

To be precise, that was April 3. According to 7-day rolling average figures compiled by covid19india.org, on that day India reported 92,994 new cases in 24 hours, a jump of close to 4,000 cases over the previous day. On April 4, the country had recorded a total of 103,794 cases with the rise over the previous day standing at 10,800 cases.

However, cases had dropped below the 1-lakh mark again on April 5, when 96,563 new infections were reported.

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But the peak just kept getting higher from there as the country clocked 115,312 cases on April 6. After that date, it is on June 7 that India saw daily new infections dipping below the 1-lakh mark, standing at 87,295 cases, a drop of close to 14,000 cases over the previous day.

When Was The Highest Single-Day Surge Recorded?

On May 5, almost exactly a month after daily new cases crossed the 1-lakh threshold, the country reported a total of 414,280 new Covid-19 infections, the highest peak during the second wave. Since then, a slide over the course of a month has brought the tally of daily new cases down below 1 lakh now.

The peak in the first wave of cases was a fraction of what it was for the second wave. On September 16 last year, India’s seven-day rolling average of cases stood at 97,860.

What Have Daily Fatality Numbers Been Like?

As the number of new cases comes down, the daily death toll, too, has dropped and was reported to be at its lowest level since April 21, when the seven-day rolling average of deaths stood at 2,101. On June 7, India reported a total of 2,115 deaths.

The peak daily death toll since India reported its first cases in January last year, came on May 18, when 4,529 deaths were reported. The peak in the first wave had not come in September, when the country had seen its highest single-day infection figure, but in June. On June 16, 2020, India had reported 2,004 deaths.

The last time, daily deaths were below the 2,000-mark during the second wave was April 19, when 1,757 deaths were reported.

What About The Test Positivity Rate?

The test positivity rate (TPR) zoomed during the second wave with many cities and districts reporting that one in every two tests were positive. Cumulatively for the country, the TPR was at 25.3% on April 25.

The earlier peak in the TPR had come on July 23 last year, when it had touched 13.7%.

How The Country Coped During The Second Wave?

Reports of deaths at hospital due to depleted oxygen supply competed with stories of crowding at crematoriums and people unable to find hospital beds for their relatives and friends. The apex court had to step in to address the shortage while the government launched oxygen supply trains to help out the states badly hit by a lack of medical oxygen.

Like in the first wave, special isolation facilities were quickly set up while NGOs and charitable organisations chipped in with help with oxygen beds and other critical equipment.

It was the shortage of key medicines and equipment that bit the hardest, including for a key drug for mucormycosis, or black fungus, thousands of cases of which were reported from across the country during the second wave. The supply crisis saw foreign countries stepping in to ship essential equipment and medicines to India.

So, Is The Second Wave Over?

According to experts, it may be still premature to say that the second wave is over. Dr Anant Bhan, global health and bioethics researcher, said that seen from a national perspective, cases have dropped but one can’t say the second wave is over. “Can’t say it’s over because the numbers are still high, relatively, but obviously they are not as bad as a few weeks earlier," Dr Bhan said. But he added that it may be “safe to presume" that the second wave is on its decline.

Lockdowns Are Being Lifted. What Must People Do To Avoid Another Surge?

As to avoiding a recurrence of the kind of crisis that struck the country during the second wave, Bhan said that the “lessons remain the same". He said that proper efforts must be made to keep track of cases and adequate testing has to be conducted so that “we’re able to pick up any rise as soon as possible". Dr Bhan also stressed on the need for “good quality surveillance, including

genomic surveillance" to detect new variants.

Vaccination will be key going forward and “the more you vaccinate, the better chances you have of addressing any future rapid increase", Dr Bhan added. Experts also said that steps must be taken to resolve the deficiencies in

the health system that came to the fore during the second wave.

What Are The Lessons Learnt?

As the country looks to leave behind the horrors of the second wave there are many lessons it can take from the crisis to avoid a repeat. As Dr Bhan said, India “can’t take pandemics lightly and needs infrastructure and human resources to be in place" to prevent or tackle surge in cases. Along with that, health authorities will need to ensure “very smart tracking of viral spread" to

check the rise of clusters.

Dr Bhan also spoke about the need for “a lot of local decision-making" as that would allow officials to control any sudden rise in cases. Experts further said that good quality evidence-based guidance should keep anchoring the response to Covid-19.

Should We Be Preparing For A Third Wave?

Experts say that the nature of a fast-spreading and unknown virus means that fresh waves can keep arising, especially if new variants keep appearing. “As unlock happens and more people come out, we have to see how many are still susceptible" to Covid-19 to understand if new waves can strike, Dr Bhan said. However, “if we get our vaccination game up and are quicker on our response

and achieve more efficient tracking" then the country can ensure that any sudden rise in cases is not “as intense and cause as much damage" as the second wave.

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first published:June 08, 2021, 10:14 IST