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India’s COVID-19 figures fluctuate

The media has been swift to herald the most recent COVID-19 figures as a potential sign of India gaining a foothold in handling the situation. While the newest figures may be encouraging, any conclusions drawn from a single day’s figures may be jumping the gun.

COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 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

The Hindustan Times reports that 75,083 new daily cases were recorded on September 21st. This marks the lowest number of new daily cases in almost a month. The last time cases in a single day fell below 75,000 occurred in late August. 

“India has recorded very high single day recoveries successively during the last 3 days. More than 90,000 #COVID19 patients have been cured and discharged from home/facility isolation and hospitals every single day,” tweeted the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. “Kudos to India’s frontline health workers! The country achieves record high of 1,01,468 #COVID19 RECOVERIES in the last 24 hours.”

Other figures are encouraging, with recoveries registered on the same day stated as being 101,468. The figure brings India’s overall recovery rate to 80.85 percent. Coupled with India’s lower mortality rate compared to other countries there may be an apparent cause for optimism. However, cautious optimism has been suggested several times over the course of India’s experience with the pandemic.

In mid-August Health Issues India reported on the abundance of asymptomatic cases, as well as the sharp rise in recovery rates that at many points across the month were higher than the rate of new infections. This was perceived at the time as being a sign that India was finally beginning to overcome the COVID-19 crisis. In early September, these hopes were crushed as new infections rose sharply and India surpassed Brazil to take the spot of the second nation most-affected by the pandemic.

Optimism, and not losing hope in the face of adversity, is important in maintaining morale during a pandemic that has seen mental health strained across the nation and, indeed, the globe. However, a positive set of figures from a single day should not be a sign of the country winning the war against the virus. Daily figures naturally fluctuate, often considerably. In a country with a population as large as India’s this is even more prevalent, as the number of factors affecting diagnosis rates are countless.

While a grim view of the situation, India’s cases are surging to take the global top position for overall number of cases. India is rapidly gaining ground on the US, a country whose own COVID-19 response has drawn global criticism. This is not entirely unexpected. India’s population predisposes the country to far higher disease figures than other nations. The speed at which COVID-19 is taking hold in India is, however, concerning.

Even accounting for the drop in active cases that have placed figures at a level that was witnessed a month prior, 75,000 cases is still a considerably high figure. By comparison, it is a figure more than double that of the current daily count in the US, currently standing at 36,372. Comparatively, the only other nation with a daily total exceeding 10,000 is Brazil.

In the context of the wider weekly figures in India, the sudden daily drop almost amounts to selective reporting. Less than one week prior the figures exceeded 97,000, India’s highest yet to be recorded. As such, a celebration of a drop — particularly given the precedent of falls preceding sharp increases — may be jumping the gun.

India’s caseload exceeds 5.5 million at the time of writing. While active cases have again dropped below one million, deaths are still mounting, with 88,965 COVID-19 related mortalities recorded so far.

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