Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 167, 1 October 2020

India crosses 6 million-mark in COVID-19 cases
Rashmi B R

In the news
On 28 September, India crossed the six million mark in the number of COVID-19 cases. The last one million cases were recorded in just 12 days. In August, it recorded a massive spike in the number of cases, with daily numbers touching 90000. ICMR's second survey highlighted that approximately "seven per cent of India's adult population was exposed to COVID-19 till the last fortnight of August."

Issues at large
First, the level of testing and contact tracing. Testing rates in India have increased manifold when compared to May and June. On 28 September, cases dropped below 70,000 for the first time in September. This coincided with a sharp drop in tests conducted. On 27 September, less than 7.1 lakh tests were conducted, the lowest since 23 August. However, every state has different levels of testing. Maharashtra, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh account for the greatest number of cases. As a region, South India seems to be the most affected in terms of the caseload. The second sero-survey said that the government directed substantial efforts in testing and contact tracing. While there were "81-130 undetected infections per reported case in May, there were 26-32 such cases in August." This indicates success in the testing and contact testing strategy.

Second, the impact of relaxing lockdown. To keep the economy alive, the government relaxed the stringent lockdown measures. This directly contributed to the rise in cases since May. However, despite the criticism of lacking basic infrastructure, India's health sector has risen up to the situation and has responded positively, though its resources have been stretched to a large extent.

Third, India's numbers at the global level. India is the second most affected country after the US, in terms of the caseload. The death rate, however, is lower than that of the US and Brazil, the third most affected country. The case fatality rate (CFR) stands at 1.57 per cent, much lower than the global CFR 3.2 per cent. The government aims to bring the CFR to 1 per cent.

In perspective
First, the focus is on reducing the number of deaths. The government's strategy is to ensure that the number and percentage of deaths due to COVID-19 remains low. The emphasis is on the high recovery rates, rather than the number of cases, to ensure that there are a smaller number of active cases, thereby reducing the pressure on the health sector.
Second, the need to revisit urban planning and the pressure on big cities. ICMR noted that the people living in urban slums are most prone to risk of contracting the virus. The risk in urban slums is twice that of non-slum urban centres and four times that of the rural areas. This necessitates a relook into India's urban planning strategy and ensure development in a way that does not overburden the cities and their resources.

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