What India’s rising COVID-19 infections don’t reveal — the lack of health infrastructure in remote areas
- India has not only reported the highest number of infections in the past four weeks but is also among the few countries which have not been able to flatten its curve despite the lockdown.
- Apart from India, Argentina, Ukraine, Iran, Indonesia, and Morocco are the countries whose COVID-19 cases have been on the rise.
- The COVID-19 outbreak spread to 34 of India’s 112 poorest rural districts on April 15 after a large number of migrant workers headed home on foot. The number of affected districts rose to 98 in June, according to NITI Aayog.
- Experts believe that India might soon become the worst-hit COVID-19 nation.
On the other hand, the number of infections is rising faster than ever before. What’s worse? There are a large number of patients in new areas where the healthcare facilities are still lacking. Without timely action, India may lose its claim that it has managed to keep the death rate low.
“Everything right now is indicating a massive surge in the caseload in the coming days. What is more worrying is we are inching toward the No. 1 spot globally.” Dr. Anant Bhan, a health researcher at Melaka Manipal Medical College in southern India told the New York Times.
Dr Bhan further said that the coronavirus outbreak was limited to urban areas from March to late May, but the relaxation in travel restrictions has led to the spread of the virus in rural areas.
In India, about 600 million people reside in rural areas, and only 25% of them have access to public outpatient healthcare facilities, according to National Family Survey-4.
The COVID-19 outbreak spread to 34 of India’s 112 poorest rural districts on April 15 after a large number of migrant workers headed home on foot. The number of affected districts rose to 98 in June, according to NITI Aayog.
More than 50% of COVID-19 cases in July and August — a time when India was adding over 50,000 new infections daily — were from rural districts. East Godavari in Andhra Pradesh, Jalgaon in Maharashtra, Ganjam in Odisha, Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh, and Ballari in Karnataka are the worst COVID-hit rural districts, the report by State Bank of India said.
Experts fear that given the lack of rural health infrastructure, the virus’ impact on rural communities could be catastrophic. India may have increased testing in urban areas, but the situation remains grim in rural areas.
Source: SBI report.
|Month||Share of rural districts in new COVID-19 cases|
|August (till 13)||54%|
A strong lockdown was a good start but it had to be followed up
In April, when COVID-19 started spreading in India — a country geographically close to China — had only 2% the number of cases. The number of deaths was only 1.5% of the total number of COVID-19. Experts then suggested that the second-most populated country might have avoided the threat and the lockdown may have worked. However, India’s COVID-19 trends now suggest otherwise.
|September 8||28, 561||89,706||17, 330|
India is not only reporting the highest number of infections in the last four weeks but is also among the few countries that have not been able to flatten its curve despite the lockdown. Apart from India, Argentina, Ukraine, Iran, Indonesia, and Morocco are the countries whose COVID-19 cases have been on the rise since the beginning, according to John Hopkins University.
India is also the second-worst hit nation by the coronavirus pandemic. AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria told NDTV that India might be witnessing the second wave of coronavirus.
A new record, and not the good kind — 90,000 cases in a day
India reported 392 COVID-19 infections on March 22 — the day PM Modi first announced lockdown. Despite 75 days of strict lockdown, it reported over 90,000 COVID-19 daily for two consecutive days on September 6 and 7. In fact, it has become the first country to report such a massive spike in COVID-19 in 24 hours.
“Under India’s lockdown, the curve did not bend,” T Sundaraman, the former executive director of the National Health Systems Resource Centre, an advisory body to the health ministry told the Scroll.in.
India’s cases doubling at an alarming speed in recent weeks:
|India’s COVID-19 tally||Doubling rate in days||Date|
|10 lakh||21 days||July 16|
|20 lakh||23 days||August 7|
|30 lakh||16 days||August 23|
|40 lakh||12 days||September 5|
While the total coronavirus cases are increasing rapidly, health authorities continue to insist that India also has one of the lowest case fatality rates (CFR) at 2%. Moreover, it has also managed to maintain a recovery rate at 77%. However, experts believe that the worst is yet to come.
India may become the world’s worst-affected COVID-19 nation soon
One of the reasons why India is seeing such a massive spike in COVID-19 cases is an increase in testing. Two months ago, India was testing 200,000 samples a day and now the testing capacity has increased to a million a day. These tests are cheaper and faster but they also can give false outcomes.
Moreover, the Indian government is also re-opening the economy. Metro services in several cities have resumed after a break of almost five months. Schools were also allowed to partially open, while colleges remain shut. Most states have allowed gathering of 100 people for marriage and other family functions with precautions.
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