India reported over 17,000 new coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours, pushing the country’s total above 500,000, federal health ministry data showed on Saturday, with infections surging in major cities including the capital New Delhi.
The COVID-19 caseload increased to 5,08,953, while 384 fatalities were recorded in the last 24 hours, the updated figure at 8 am showed.
This was the fourth consecutive day when coronavirus infection increased by more than 15,000, while there has been a surge of 3,18,418 infections from June 1 till 27. Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh are the top contributors to the rising tally.It took 110 days for coronavirus infections in the country to reach one lakh, while just 39 days more to go past the five lakh-mark.
India reported its first case of coronavirus infection on January 30 from Kerala. The number of active cases currently stands at 1,97,387 while 2,95,880 people have recovered and one patient has migrated."Thus, around 58.13 per cent patients have recovered so far," an official said.
India has the world’s fourth-biggest outbreak of the virus that causes COVID-19, below only the United States, Brazil and Russia in confirmed infections, according to a Reuters tally.According to Johns Hopkins University, which has been compiling COVID-19 data from all over the world, India is at the eighth position in terms of the death toll.
It took 64 days for COVID-19 cases in India to touch the (May 19) one lakh-mark from 100 cases, and another fortnight to cross two lakh cases on June 3. It took 10 days for the tally to touch the three lakh-mark and another eight days for the cases to climb to four lakh.
Medical experts have pointed to the ramped up COVID-19 testing, now available more extensively and at a reasonable price, as a big reason for the spike in cases recently.Six days after recording four lakh infections, India's COVID-19 tally went past the five lakh-mark on Saturday with the highest single-day surge of 18,552 cases, while the death toll climbed to 15,685, according to Union health ministry data.
Infections are expected to continue rising steadily in India. Experts advising the federal government say the authorities should now prioritise reducing mortality over containing the spread of the virus.
“Our focus should be on preventing deaths and not really getting bogged down because of the numbers. Numbers are going to increase,” said Dr Manoj Murhekar, a member of India’s main coronavirus task force and director of the National Institute of Epidemiology.
The COV-IND-19 study group, led by Bhramar Mukherjee, a biostatistics professor from the University of Michigan, forecasts that India could see between 770,000 and 925,000 cases by July 15.
Dr. Monica Mahajan, Director, Internal Medicine, Max Healthcare, said it is important to understand the reason for the exponential rise in cases.
The numbers are doubling at such a fast rate due to factors such as the high reproduction number of the virus (the number of cases, on average, an infected person will cause during their infectious period), she said. Also, with the lifting of lockdown norms people's behaviour has changed again as they are not acting as responsibly as before.
She said the price of the test has come down and test kits are more easily available,so more cases are being detected.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), a cumulative total of 79,96,707 samples have been tested up to June 26 with 2,20,479 samples being tested on Friday, the highest in a day since the beginning of the pandemic.
Starting with one single laboratory, the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune and having 100 laboratories in the beginning of the lockdown, the ICMR on June 23 validated 1000th testing laboratory.
The government has ramped up its testing infrastructure across the country significantly with the ICMR validating around 1,007 diagnostic labs, of which 734 are in the government sector and 273 private sector.
As infections mount swiftly and hospitals become stretched, some cities like New Delhi are scrambling to build temporary facilities with thousands of beds to quarantine and treat COVID-19 patients.
The city of around 20 million people only has around 13,200 beds for COVID-19 patients and will add at least 20,000 in coming weeks, with some facilities manned by army and paramilitary doctors.
Staff shortages are likely to be a concern as hospitals are swamped and more temporary facilities open, experts warn, although health authorities in some Indian cities are pushing for improved risk-based categorisation of patients.
“We have to ensure those who really require treatment aren’t denied services,” said Dr Giridhar R. Babu, an epidemiologist at the Public Health Foundation of India who is advising the southern state of Karnataka.