Covid crisis: Below 2% infected, 98% of India still vulnerable, says govt

People violating Social distancing norms at a vegetable market in Dadar
The government on Tuesday said that it had managed to control the spread of Covid-19 in the country through its field efforts with just 1.8 per cent of the total population catching the virus so far, lower than many other countries including the US, France, Italy, Brazil, Russia and Germany.

“Despite the high number of cases we were able to contain the spread to under 2 per cent of the population. This should make us wary of protecting the 98 per cent population that is still vulnerable and susceptible,” said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, health ministry. The total number of Covid cases in India has crossed the 25-million mark and the number of deaths is at 278,719.

The data shared by the health ministry showed that over 10 per cent population in the US, 9 per cent in France, more than 7 per cent in Italy, Brazil and Argentina, 6 per cent in Turkey and Colombia, over 4 per cent in Germany, and more than 3 per cent in Russia were affected by the virus. 

With active cases declining for the last 15 days and positivity rate coming down to around 16.9 per cent from over 21 per cent in early May, the government said the pandemic was stabilising.  There has been a 27 per cent decline in daily cases compared to the peak seen on May 6 when cases crossed 4,14,000. “The scientific analysis shows that over R or the reproduction number is below one. This shows that pandemic is shrinking,” V K Paul, member-health Niti Aayog, said. 

Paul said the declining positivity rate was due to collective efforts and “we cannot again let this go out of hand.” 

According to the health ministry data, the country has witnessed a consistent upward trend in weekly tests since mid-February with average daily tests more than 2.5 times in the last 14 weeks. “After a consistent increase in case positivity for 13 weeks, a decline is reported since the last week,” Agarwal said. 

There are eight states with more than 100,000 active cases. Even though the overall positivity rate is down, it’s increasing in some states along with rising cases. Tamil Nadu is seeing a 24.5 per cent positivity and a continuous rise in cases since April. In three weeks, cases have more than doubled in Sikkim with a positivity rate of over 26 per cent. Similar trends can be seen in Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Manipur. 

However, in some states while the number of cases is increasing, the positivity rate is coming down. Puducherry, for example, has a positivity rate of almost 38 per cent, down from 45 per cent a week ago even though daily cases are on an upward trajectory. Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Nagaland and Odisha are among the states witnessing a similar trend.

Overall, the positivity rate is declining in 26 states while around 200 districts are seeing a fall in daily cases for the past two weeks. On under-reporting of deaths in some states, Agarwal said, “We request every state to share the correct data. If we hide data, how will we manage the disease.’’

Paul also said the government would examine the reports of a new Singapore strain which is being said to affect children. “The effect of Covid on children, from what is known, shows that they are asymptomatic. If a virus changes its behaviour, we will keep a close watch to understand and give an appropriate response,” he said.

Dear Reader,

Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.

We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel