Friday, March 5

Number theory: The Covid-19 story across the country’s districts

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India has recorded at least 10.8 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, the second highest in the world after the US. But the trajectory of the new cases in India has been showing a promising trend – one that actually started almost five months back. India recorded 11,492 daily new cases on average in the week ending February 7, only 12% of the peak – 93,617 cases were recorded at peak on September 16. India is so far the only country among the five countries with the highest number of confirmed cases to not have seen a second wave of the infection. New cases of the infection are now significantly lower than the peak in most parts of India except in the state of Kerala.

1. cases nil in 25% districts, below 20 in other 64% districts

Of the 707 districts – this includes 11 revenue districts of Delhi as one single unit – data for which is compiled by How India Lives, a quarter have reported zero daily new cases on average in seven days ending January 31. A majority 56% have reported fewer than 10 new daily cases on average while only 21 districts (or 3%) have reported more than 100 daily cases on average in this period. This is a significant improvement over the last four months. In mid-September, only about 9% districts were recording no new cases while 28% districts were reporting at least 100 new cases daily on average.

2. Most districts are far off from their peaks

Daily new cases reported in 89% of the districts in the week ending January 31 are under 10% of their respective peaks. No district in India is at its peak at present. The case tally on January 31 was at least 50% of the peak in only 10 districts, nine of them in Kerala and one in Chhattisgarh.

India’s daily new cases peaked in mid-September. September is also the month when cases peaked in nearly 45% of India’s districts. Some districts hit the peak even before September. Seven districts hit their peaks in January this year.

3. Kerala is an outlier

Kerala is currently the only state showing a rising trend in the daily new cases in India. Nearly half of the country’s new cases in the week ending February 7 have been reported from Kerala. Its share in the country’s new cases has been rising fast. It was 25% on January 1 and even lower, 15%, on December 1. Maharashtra, the state with the second-highest number of confirmed cases, has around 20% share in the country’s new cases now compared to as high as over 40% in June last year.

Daily new cases being reported in India at present are only around 12% of the country’s peak. India has so far not seen a second wave of infections unlike most other big countries. New cases in the US stopped dropping after the first wave when the new cases were 64% of the first peak (and the second wave began). In Brazil, the third most affected country by case count, cases stopped decreasing when they reached 29% of the first peak (and the second wave began). This figure was 43% in Russia. Compared to them, India’s new case tally has so far seen a significant drop. But this should not make anyone complacent. This is because there are other examples such as the United Kingdom and France where cases after the first peak dropped to as low as 7.3% and 2.4% of their first peaks before rising again, ultimately overtaking peaks seen in the first wave. To be sure, the situation in India at present is very different – there is an ongoing vaccination drive and a significant share of population in big cities has reportedly developed immunity – and the chances of a second wave may be lower than the example cited above. But why be sorry later, when one can be safe now.