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COVID-19: How long until the next million?

While India has recently hit one million cases of COVID-19, the next million may be just a few short weeks away.

COVID-19 Coronavirus superspreaders blood test 2019-nCoV,SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV chinese infection blood test in Laboratory. COVID-19 cases concept. Illustration of first coronavirus death in India. Representation of coronavirus testing. Image credit: photovs / 123rf COVID-19 testing concept.
Image credit: photovs / 123rf

Indian National Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday predicted that India would record two million cases of COVID-19 by the second week of August, a day after the country reported a million infections. This may indeed be the case as the daily figures have continued to rise on a consistent basis. India has now witnessed highs of more than 40,000 cases in a single day. The figures continue to increase, indicating that the two million figure could come within the next three weeks. 

“I suspect the number of cases will continue to increase and the big question for India and the United States, what are the interventions we are going to use to keep the virus levels manageable?” said Dr Ashish K Jha, Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. “Right now, as I am looking at India, I am getting very worried that a lot of cases are happening and people are starting to die from the disease.”

Indeed, India’s death toll has swiftly risen to 30,657. India’s death toll remains lower than many countries with fewer overall cases, despite having a greater number of COVID-19 cases overall. The recovery rate in India has also remained high, with some arguing that this could mean that India could achieve herd immunity with a lower percentage of overall deaths.

A lower mortality rate in India, when extrapolated to the whole population, is still going to be a vast figure. Of the current closed cases, India has recorded a four percent death rate compared to the global average of six percent overall. Extrapolated to a population exceeding one billion people, a four percent mortality rate is still a considerable cause for concern.

Dr Jayaprakash Muliyil, former principal of the Christian Medical College in Vellore and chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the National Institute of Epidemiology, has taken a grim view of the situation. He refers to the dreams of controlling the disease in India as being “shattered”. The discussion now, according to Dr Muliyil, is how fast herd immunity can be achieved.

Even in achieving herd immunity, a total of sixty to seventy percent of the population are likely to be infected. Given the current mortality rate this amounts to millions of lives lost. Current outlooks are bleak, and without considerable measures to curb the spread of the disease the situation in India is only likely to worsen in the coming weeks and months. 


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