India has gained the dubious distinction of notching up more than a million coronavirus cases, the third highest after the US and Brazil, with no clear path to curbing the pandemic and fears it could spiral out of control.
The latest daily tally of cases is 35,468 with 680 deaths.
The pandemic, which gave sufficient warning before landing in India in early March, is wiping out livelihoods because of a two-month countrywide lockdown, and selective clampdowns in different states.
These have disrupted production, supply chains, transport, sales and general economic activity. The economy is forecast to contract for the first time in four decades, by double digits this year.
India’s latest tally is put at 1.05 million cases. The country of 1.4 billion people added the last 300,000 in just 10 days. The latest daily testing count is 333,228 according to the government. On a globally comparable scale, India carries out 0.2 tests per thousand people, compared with 0.71 by Italy, 1.67 by the UK, and 2.2 by the US.
With states hitherto dormant springing up as new hotspots and the rate of testing still low, the number of cases is poised to rise. States which squandered the national lockdown without adding significantly to their medical infrastructure are panicking and rushing to impose their own lockdowns.
Bihar in eastern India and Karnataka in the south each imposed a fortnight-long lockdown, while West Bengal, Goa and Assam have put lockdowns in local hotspots.
“Only God can save us now,’’ a nervous Health Minister of Karnataka, B Sriramalu said on Wednesday. “Awareness among people is the only way.’’
The number of days for Covid cases to double in southern states Karnataka and Telangana is 10, which is is considered alarming. The state capitals Bangalore and Hyderabad are hubs of software development and services, business process outsourcing and knowledge process outsourcing, serving a huge clientele in the US and Europe.
The states contained the virus initially but lax standards over wearing masks, social distancing and an influx of visitors from neighboring hotspot states proved to be their undoing.
Maharashtra in their north and Tamil Nadu in the south have the highest number of cases and daily additions. The two along with Delhi account for 56% of India’s cases and half the deaths.
The top six worst affected states account for 70% of cases nationally, while the worst 10 of India’s 29 states are responsible for 86% of cases.
Among the states that are fast catching up as growth areas include Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. What makes matters worse is that most of these states are locations of migrant workers returning from industrialized states and towns.
The number of districts with more than 1,000 cases has risen to 115 from just five in April. Medical experts keep warning that authorities must stay focused to “test, trace and isolate,” or things will get out of hand.
India’s fatality rate is lower than many countries at 2.5%, and fewer than 9,000 people are seriously ill.
Delhi is a prime example of what testing can do to control the spread. Delhi’s decision to ramp up testing and do a door-to-door survey yielded impressive results. Compared with its forecast of 225,000 cases by mid-July, the city-state today has 118,645 cases.