The surge in coronavirus infections in India can be attributed to increased testing on one hand and opening of the economy on the other accompanied by complacency among people towards following COVID-appropriate behaviour, experts have said, as the country witnessed over five lakh cases in a week.
A record single-day spike of 78,761 cases took India’s COVID-19 tally to 35,42,733, on Sunday, according to Union Health Ministry data updated at 8 am. The country has been registering over 70,000 cases for the last four days.
Dr Samiran Panda, the head of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said this increase in cases was expected but pointed out that it is not a homogenous phenomenon across the states.
“It is happening in some pockets and among groups where there is an intermixing of the susceptible population and asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cases which is leading to a transmission of the disease. So, efforts have to be made to interrupt this transmission in these pockets,” Dr Panda said.
Also, testing has been ramped up exponentially which is leading to more number of cases getting detected, he said. “Further, with the opening up of the economy and people’s movement increasing, some complacency is being seen among people towards following COVID-appropriate behaviour which is also contributing to the rise in cases,” Panda said as he stressed on the need for a sustained COVID-19 appropriate behaviour.
Leading virologist Shahid Jameel said that people are not following advisories on wearing masks, hand hygiene and social distancing. “This is driven by a complacency that results from the official narrative which only talks of the increasing number of recoveries and low death rate. The fact is that we are getting the largest daily numbers (of cases). We are now third in total infections and going to be on the third spot in total deaths as well,” he said.
Experts underlined that the way forward is for the people to follow COVID-appropriate which include wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette in a sustained manner, while the government should focus on preventing deaths.
Dr K K Aggarwal, the president of the Confederation of Medical Association of Asia and Oceania (CMAAO) and former IMA chief said, “There is no way the number of cases can be checked by government efforts at this stage.” He stressed that prevention will have to be at an individual level now.
“If this current trend continues, nobody can stop India from crossing Brazil and America (in the number of cases). That would happen in probably six weeks. There is no way we can check the number of cases by government efforts. Now, prevention will have to be an individual effort.
“Opening up (of the economy) will lead to a surge in cases. The locking period was to prepare and sensitise people about how to prevent themselves from getting infected. What is more important now is to put a check on mortality. So government efforts should focus on mortality reduction,” Aggarwal said.
India has till Sunday recorded 63,498 fatalities linked to COVID-19 with 948 people succumbing to the disease in the last 24 hours, according to the Union health ministry data.
According to sources in the government, increasing testing is one of the major factors behind the rising number of infections being reported.
A record 10.5 lakh tests were conducted for detection of COVID-19 on Saturday, which took India’s cumulative tests to 4,14,61,636. India’s COVID-19 positivity rate as on date is 7.50 per cent, while the cumulative positivity rate is 8.57 per cent. The country’s weekly positivity rate is 8 per cent, official sources said.
The number of recoveries has surged to 27,13,933 pushing the recovery rate to 76.61 per cent while the fatality rate has declined to 1.79 per cent.
The health ministry had on Saturday said, “The global comparison depicted that India has one of the lowest cases per million (2,424) and deaths per million (44) compared to the global average of 3,161 and 107.2 respectively.