Associated Press have published an interesting analysis on how, in just three weeks, India went from the world’s sixth to the third-worst hit country by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a tally by John Hopkins University.
India’s fragile health system was bolstered during a stringent months-long lockdown but experts say it could still be overwhelmed by an exponential rise in infections.
Here is where India stands in its battle against the virus:
Steady climb, multiple peaks
India has tallied 793,802 infections and more than 21,600 deaths, with cases doubling every three weeks. It’s testing more than 250,000 samples daily after months of sluggishness but experts say this is insufficient for a country of nearly 1.4 billion people.
But Dr Anant Bhan, a bioethics and global health researcher warned that there won’t be just one peak in India. He pointed out that the capital of New Delhi and India’s financial capital, Mumbai, had already seen surges, while infections had now begun spreading to smaller cities as governments eased restrictions. The actual toll would be unknown, he said, unless India made testing more accessible.
The health ministry said on Thursday that India was doing relatively well managing Covid-19, pointing to 13 deaths per 1 million people, compared with about 400 in the US and 320 in Brazil.
But knowing the actual toll in India is impossible because there is no reporting mechanism in most places for any kind of death, said Dr Jayaprakash Muliyil, an epidemiologist at the Christian Medical College in Vellore who has been advising the government.
No central coordination
In India, public health is managed at a state level and some have managed better than others.
The southern state of Kerala, where India’s first three virus cases were reported, has been held up as a model. It isolated patients early, traced and quarantined contacts and tested aggressively.
By contrast, Delhi, the state that includes the national capital, has been sharply criticised for failing to anticipate a surge of cases in recent weeks as lockdown measures eased.
India’s role in global fight
India has seven vaccines in various stages of clinical trial, including one by Bharat Biotech that the Indian Council on Medical Research pledged would have results from human trials by 15 August.
The top medical research body quickly backtracked but the country will still play a critical role in the world’s inoculation against Covid-19 thanks to the Serum Institute of India in the central Indian city of Pune, which is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer.
India makes about 1,000 ventilators and 600,000 personal protective equipment kits per day, according to government think-tank Niti Aayog, making it the second largest kit maker in the world after China.
The economic curve
Although Indian airspace remains closed to commercial airlines from abroad, India’s economy has largely reopened.
Consumer activity has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, government data showed, and factory workers who fled cities when India imposed its lockdown March 24 have begun to return, enticed, in some cases, by employers offering free room and board.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has used the health crisis along with a military standoff with China over a disputed border region to rally the country around the idea of a self-reliant India whose home-grown industries will emerge stronger.
Approval ratings that US pollster Morning Consult estimate at 82% suggest many Indians are with him, even after the hasty lockdown triggered a humanitarian crisis, with thousands of migrant workers fleeing on foot toward their natal villages, and as two top government scientists on the front lines of the coronavirus fight stepping down in recent weeks.
With the coronavirus nowhere near abating in India, how Modi will fare as the toll of infections and deaths continues to rise is still unclear.