India’s Covid-19 curve not flattening, but numbers are giving positive vibes

The number of recovered Covid-19 patients has outnumbered the number of active cases over the past few days thanks to a significant increase in recoveries relative to new cases.

However, the absolute number of active cases continues to rise, which is a concern for (1) the medical infrastructure in worst-affected areas and (2) the economy in the case of any disproportionate response from the government authorities in the form of partial or strict lockdowns.

Recent data suggests a steady increase in the number of Covid-19 cases, with India currently placed third globally in terms of daily new case additions. Growth rate remained stable with 10-day compounded daily growth rate (CDGR) at 3.7 per cent versus 4 per cent on June 13. The 10-day CDGR of active cases has dropped sharply to 2.1 per cent with a steep increase in number of recovered cases.

However, the past week saw further increase in the cases-to-tests ratio, with the ratio rising to 6.2 per cent versus 5.8 per cent a week back. It is important to note that there has been a steady increase in testing over the past week, but the cases-to-tests ratio on a daily basis has remained steady at high levels.

The overall recovery rate bumped up further with recovered cases/confirmed cases at 55 per cent as of June 20, 2020 versus 51 per cent of June 13, 2020. Most states have seen steady increase in active cases over the past two weeks; only six states have seen a decline over this period.

However, we should note that 5.4 per cent of active cases have not been assigned as yet, which may distort the data for some states. Most states have decent-to-high recovery rates. However, fatality rates increased sharply, as Delhi and Maharashtra reclassified previous unassigned deaths to Covid-19. Still, India has relatively low fatality rates compared with other majorly affected countries.

An analysis of district-wise data shows most of the confirmed cases are still concentrated in urban areas with Top 5 districts contributing 49 per cent of cases, top 10 districts, contributing 58 per cent cases and top 25 districts contributing 67 per cent of cases.

As per June 20 data, 85 districts reported fewer than 50 cases and 160 districts reported fewer than 25 cases. We should note that 12 of the top-20 districts have lower-than-national growth rates and decent-to-high recovery rates.

Also, the steady increase in testing post the lifting of lockdown restrictions has resulted in an increase in number of cases in certain areas, which may lead to identification of new hot-spots. State and local administrations are pursuing a diverse range of strategies, with lockdowns being implemented either on weekends (Punjab) or in parts of cities (Mumbai) or the whole city (Chennai) or states (four districts in Tamil Nadu).

While there may be demands for lockdown in certain states depending on further data, most governments are reticent to ‘re-lock’ given the limited success achieved during the protracted lockdown at the higher cost of livelihoods lost.

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