A Disturbing Scene


India reporting highest number of daily COVID cases in the world

It is very disturbing to note that India has continued to report the highest numbers of coronavirus positive cases on a daily basis in the world for over a month now. The country reported 90,634 and 90,802 cases on September 6 and 7. The number of fresh cases came down to 75,809 on September 8, as generally has been the case over the weeks. India reported the highest number of deaths in the 24-hour period on Tuesday at 1,133. Though cases came down on September 8, the Indian tally on Tuesday is much higher than that of the United States of America which has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world and has been consistently reporting about 50,000 cases since August 18. India has added over six lakh cases over the last week alone, of which around 75 per cent cases came from the six worst-affected states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh.

The central government has attributed the highest numbers of cases to the increase in testing of people across the country. India has so far conducted 5.06 crore tests, of whom over 42.80 lakh have been found to be coronavirus positive. However, the testing in India per million people is low at 36,636, against 2,65,771 in the USA and 67,694 in Brazil. As India scales up testing, the number of coronavirus positive cases will go up substantially in the coming months. Experts believe that the coronavirus epidemic has entered a runaway phase when a higher and higher number of new infections will be reported almost every day. If the present trend continues India is expected to overtake the US by October 5 as the country with the highest number of cases, if not earlier. While most of India is reporting the first wave of COVID cases, some places which had been hotspots of the virus are witnessing a second wave. The second surge in these places has been attributed to relaxations of the curbs imposed during the lockdown paving way for free movement.

Epidemiologists are of the opinion that the coronavirus epidemic has now reached a stage in which government intervention is unlikely to bring down the speed with which the newer cases were being detected. They also say that an increasing number of Indians have got sick of living a restricted life in the pandemic and are not keenly adhering to the guidelines for safety such as social distancing and wearing of masks and maintaining hand hygiene. As public transport, public places and workplaces have opened, the people coming in close contact with each other in the usual manner has become a major cause for the spike in COVID-19 cases. However, all the blame for India reporting the highest number of cases cannot be laid upon the doors of the public. The government has also not been able to provide safe public transport, because the buses and trains operate in an inadequate number and people are forced to compromise on the safety guidelines. The government is also not doing enough testing. The scale of testing is not adequate for a country with a population of over 138 crore.

With the number of coronavirus positive cases set to shoot up, much will depend on how the government and private institutions balance the unlocking with prevention of the spread of infection. It will also depend on the seriousness with which people follow the safety norms. The  pandemic threatens to take a much higher number of lives than it has taken so far. As many parts of rural India do not have adequate healthcare facilities, the best course for people is to protect themselves and their families from contracting the virus by strictly adhering to the guidelines. Given the size of our country‚Äôs population, it is impossible to detect the violators of the guidelines and punish them. While the central and state governments may not be able to do much in arresting the increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases they should take concrete steps to strengthen and expand healthcare infrastructure to treat patients in rural India where the virus has reached and is threatening to play havoc.