Four months after the pandemic hit India, we have crossed the 1 million-cases mark, becoming the third country in the world to cross this level after the United States and Brazil.
On Friday, July 17, India recorded 34,956 new coronavirus cases, the highest single-day rise it has witnessed so far.
The India Today Data Intelligence Unit compares India’s position at a million cases with the US and Brazil when they had reached their first million cases based on the growth rate of cases, daily addition of cases, and deaths. Here is how India fares.
Growth rate of cases at 1 million
As of Friday, India’s weekly growth rate of coronavirus cases stands at 3.4 per cent. This is higher than the growth rate of Brazil and the US when they had reached their first million cases. This means that cases are doubling every 21 days in the country.
Brazil crossed a million cases on 20 June. The weekly growth rate in the country on that day was 3.3 per cent, which means that cases were doubling every 22 days. Since then, Covid-19 cases have doubled in Brazil, and on Friday, it crossed the 2-million mark.
The United States had a weekly growth rate of 3.1 per cent on 29 April, the day it reached its first million cases. Cases were doubling every 23 days then. Currently, more than 3.5 million people have been infected in the US by coronavirus.
Daily coronavirus cases
At 1 million cases, India’s daily addition of cases are alarming. For the past two days, India has recorded more than 30,000 cases. On 17 July, it recorded close to 35,000 new coronavirus cases, which brings its weekly rolling average to a little more than 30,000 now.
What makes it more worrisome is that India is no longer in an advantageous position now as it had been compared to the US and Brazil when all three countries had recorded their first 100,000 (1 lakh) cases, and then 500,000 (5 lakh) cases.
India’s daily addition averaged 4,340 cases when it crossed the 100,000 mark. At that level, the US was witnessing 18,000 daily cases, on an average, while Brazil was reporting about 5,600 new cases every day.
However, the trend has reverse now, and at 1 million cases, India’s daily addition of cases is higher than what it was for the US and Brazil when they had reached this point.
The rolling average of daily new cases in Brazil on its first million cases was a little over 29,000. However, it has remained in the 30,000-40,000 ballpark since then.
The daily additions averaged 26,000 in the US when it reached its first million cases and was sloping downwards. But, this downward movement was temporary as Covid-19 cases started rising again in the last week of June. The US is witnessing more than 60,000 new cases every day now.
It remains to be seen if India follows a similar path or if it can curb cases from here.
Covid-19 deaths and recoveries
In this aspect, India fares better when compared with the US and Brazil, if the reported number of deaths is accurate. At 1 million cases, India has the eighth-highest number of deaths in the world, and at one million cases, daily deaths in India averaged 540 in the past one week. In comparison, daily deaths in the US averaged 1,900 when it hit 1 million cases while in Brazil, daily deaths averaged 1,018 when at the same level.
However, the growth rate of deaths in India is alarming as the number of daily deaths are increasing day-by-day.
However, India’s recovery rate is much better than these two countries. At a million cases, roughly 63 per cent people have recovered from the disease in India. The recovery rate at one million cases was 11 per cent in the US and 57 per cent in Brazil.
What road will India follow?
Considering these data points, one wonders if India is going to follow in the footsteps of the US or Brazil.
To answer that question, we asked Bhramar Mukherjee, professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health, University of Michigan, whose team had rightly predicted that India would touch a million coronavirus cases by mid-July.
Speaking to India Today, Professor Mukherjee said, “I believe India has always been a slow burning coil, and it will continue to see cases for a long time. We cannot afford a long enough lockdown to get case-counts to hundreds or a few thousands when we can expect to contain them by quarantine, isolation and contact tracing. There are 400,000 active cases now and perhaps 10 times more asymptomatic cases. So, we need a pragmatic long-term strategy that balances between alarmism and denial.”
The coronavirus situation is also perturbed by regional heterogeneity in India. When one state starts doing better, the situation worsens in others.
“We had predicted two months ago to watch out for Southern and Eastern states, in particular Bihar, Odisha, and West Bengal. Now, strong measures are being taken, but it should have been done a month ago. What you are seeing today is what the virus did two weeks ago. So we cannot wait this long,” adds Professor Mukherjee.
She believes that better preparation can help India combat the virus and rather than another shutdown. “A large-scale sero survey conducted well along with sufficient beds in Covid-19 designated hospitals are needed. The first million took 6.5 months, but if things continue as they are currently, the next million will be right around Independence Day. Learn from policies that have worked and shut down the ones that have failed,” she adds.