On Monday, India recorded 22,022 new cases of the coronavirus disease. Case numbers normally take a hit on Mondays owing to low testing over the weekend, but the final Monday on which the country recorded fewer than 22,022 cases was once back on June 29 (18,318 cases).
India saw 352 deaths from Covid-19 on Monday. The final Monday on which it saw fewer deaths was once back on June 22 (311 deaths).
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India’s Covid-19 numbers have clearly taken a turn for the better — as the charts accompanying this piece show.
Why is this happening?
Let’s start with why it’s not happening. Insufficient testing — this columnist’s favourite bugbear, as many have pointed out — isn’t the reason. On Monday, India conducted 993,665 tests. On the Sunday before (December 13), it did 855,157. On Monday, June 29, it conducted 210,292 tests; and on the Sunday before (June 28), it did 170,560.
Nor is it that some states and Union territories are depending overly on the mistaken roughly tests. Both Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, to name just two, have increased the number of Reverse Tanscription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) tests they conduct. These molecular tests are thought to be the gold standard in testing and are far more accurate than rapid antigen tests (which still account for a majority of the tests conducted by Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, even if their proportion of the whole has decreased). Bihar still continues to depend on rapid antigen tests, though.
So, what could provide an explanation for the sharp fall in case and death numbers? The current seven-day average of cases is 28,827, 72.6% of what it was once on December 1, 63.2% of what it was once on November 1, and 37.8% of what it was once on September 1. India has 333,392 active cases currently, 59.1% of the number of active cases on November 1, and 35.3% the number on October 1.
One conceivable explanation is that there’s better adherence to safety protocols such as the wearing of masks and social distancing. Whether everyone wore masks in each situation where it made sense for them to (and not just in each situation where they were required to), the number of infections is bound to fall sharply — and India could mannered be seeing some of that.
Another is that with around 143 million people perhaps exposed to and infected by the virus — this number is arrived at by assuming a 0.1% infection fatality rate and working backwards from the around 143,000 deaths India has seen to date — immunity levels in the population are high enough to verify a fall in the number of infections. This number, 143 million, translates into an 11% exposure at the aggregate level — a proportion which is likely to be much higher in urban areas and much lower in remote rural areas. And provided that there’s a strong opportunity of a few under-reporting of deaths, the actual levels is also higher. For example, 200,000 deaths would translate into 200 million infections, and an exposure level of nearly 15%.
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A third, and this can be a more speculative explanation than the other two, is that the virus has infected most people susceptible to infection — we realize that not everyone exposed to the virus is infected; and that not everyone infected becomes a transmitter — and that as it jumps from individual to individual, it is more and more coming in touch with people who do not get infected. This would intent some pre-existing protection — possibly from preceding coronavirus infections or exposure to other viruses; or possibly from something such as the BCG vaccine, something most Indians are administered in childhood, and which, research has shown, does offer some protection against Covid-19, or no less than lessens the severity of the infection.
All three explanations are mere theories at this point — there could be more such — but we’re having to think along these lines simply because India’s trajectory of infections is in a different way nearly inexplicable.[ad_2]