NEW DELHI: Two-thirds of all Covid-19 deaths from March up to June-end were registered last month itself when the government eased most of the lockdown restrictions and rolled out Unlock-1.0 on June 1, an analysis by The New Indian Express has revealed.
From March 13, when the first novel coronavirus-related fatality was registered in the country, to May-end, around 5,500 deaths due to the pandemic were recorded.
But in June, when unlock started, there was a surge. On June 1, the total deaths stood at 5,606, but by the end of the month, 11,803 more persons had died of Covid-19, taking the fatalities to 17,409.
It wasn’t fatalities alone that registered a sharp rise. Several other indicators showed that during Unlock-1.0, the curve went through the roof. On June 1, there were 97,008 active cases.
By the end of the month, that figure climbed to 2,20,478. If one looks at the figure of confirmed Covid-19 cases in June, comparing it with the total confirmed cases since March when lockdown was first announced, June alone contributed 65% of the total cases.
“The high numbers show the epidemic is now growing rapidly. All our control measures seem to have been, at best, only partially-successful, probably only delayed rather than averted the effect of the epidemic,” said epidemiologist Jammi N Rao, who has worked with the Indian Council of Medical Research, Hyderabad, and was a public health consultant with the UK National Health Service.
The month of May is an important landmark in India’s fight against the virus. Fatality rate, which reached a peak of 3.42% on May 5, was brought down by the month-end to 2.83%.
This happened through a combination of increased testing and isolation.
Then Unlock-1.0 was rolled out on June 1, with strict curbs confined to containment zones only. Night-time curfew was relaxed by an hour and places of worship, hotels, restaurants and shopping malls were reopened on June 8.
This seemed to clear the path for a rise in the death rate and it breached the 3% mark again.
On June 16, India suffered its highest single day loss of lives with 2,004 dying of the disease.
The data has also revealed that the spike in cases was mainly reported from Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Haryana, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Maharashtra reported the highest caseload in the country -- it was recording on an average nearly 5,000 daily positive cases in the last week of June, although the higher numbers could be seen as a result of increased testing.
Similarly, Delhi also started witnessing a large number of new Covid-19 cases and recorded a daily addition of over 3,000 cases in the last week of June. After the Centre’s intervention, the city has been testing between 15,000 and 19,000 samples daily.
While experts said keeping the country in lockdown would never have been sufficient, the question is whether India did enough during the lockdown period to bolster its medical services and infrastructure.
“How long can we stay in the lockdown mode? After all, lockdown will stop the transmission only to a certain extent. As a strategy, it is supposed to help us stagger the infections and prepare the system to respond rapidly. Whether we managed to do that is a separate question,” said Dr Oommen John, a public health researcher with the George Institute of Global Health in New Delhi.
Rao echoed John. He said while lockdown by itself is not a solution, the question is whether the lockdown was used to make unlocking safe.
“If you don’t use the lockdown, unlocking will always be risky. And that seems to have happened. We did not use the lockdown wisely. Therefore, unlocking is looking increasingly risky now. All our control measures seem to have been at best only partially successful, these probably only delayed rather than averted the pandemic effect,” Rao said.But the June story has not been altogether gloomy. In the beginning of the month, the number of active cases (97008) was more than the number of recovered cases (95744).
This reversed by the end of June and the number of recovered cases exceeded the number of active cases by close to 1.2 lakh. This happened because of ramped-up testing, extensive door-to-door surveys and isolation of areas with a high density of Covid-19 patients.
On June 9, the number of recovered cases breached the total number of active cases by a difference of nearly 1,000.
This difference increased progressively and by June-end, there were over 1.5 lakh more recoveries than there were active cases.
The evidence of how India has steadily gained ground in its fight against the novel coronavirus can also be gauged by the recovery rate of active cases since the early days of lockdown in April, when it was 8.2%. By June-end it had touched an all-time high of 59.37%. The steady progress was made thanks to the few states whose recovery was in excess of 70%.
Twelve states/Union Territories, including large states such as Rajasthan, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand and Odisha, registered a recovery rate of over 70 per cent.
Chandigarh came across as the model for the entire country, registering a recovery rate of 82.72%,according to data analysed by this paper.
Rise in recovery rate
The evidence of how India has steadily gained ground in its fight against the novel coronavirus can also be gauged by the recovery rate of active cases since the early days of lockdown in April, when it was 8.2 per cent. By June-end it had touched an all-time high of 59.37 per cent.