Just three states in India—Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala—now account for more than half the coronavirus cases in the country. Currently, there are a total of 8,38,729 active infections. Of that, Maharashtra accounts for 2,12,905 cases (25.38 per cent of active cases), Karnataka for 1,15,795 (13.81 per cent), and Kerala for 94,473 (11.26 per cent). In addition, 10 states—Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Chhattisgarh and Telangana—account for 79 per cent of the active cases. Till two weeks ago, Kerala was not in the list; now, it is at the third spot, said NITI Aayog member (Health) V.K. Paul.
On the flip side though, the national numbers are steadily declining. On Tuesday, after nearly two months, the daily coronavirus infections reported had dropped below 60,000. For the fifth day in a row, the active cases of COVID-19 remained below 9 lakh. The country has been recording less than 75,000 new infections daily for the fifth consecutive day, and fatalities below 1,000 for 10 straight days. India had registered a record single-day increase of 97,894 COVID-19 cases on September 17.
In all, the coronavirus caseload has surged to 71,75,880 and the total recoveries had crossed 62 lakh, the Union health ministry data stated. The total cases mounted to 71,75,880, with 55,342 infections being reported in a day, while death toll climbed to 1,09,856.
Pointing out the silver lining, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan told media that there was a decline in the cumulative, weekly and daily COVID-19 positivity rates, which stood at 8.07 per cent, 6.24 per cent and 5.16 per cent respectively, even as the testing increased exponentially. "The average daily COVID-19 positivity rate has declined from 8.50 per cent between September 9-September 15 to 6.24 per cent between October 7-October 13," Bhushan said.
According to Central data, there has been a "significant increase" in testing for COVID-19 and there is a continuous decline in the positivity rate. On an average, 11,36,000 tests are being conducted on a daily basis. 14 states and Union territories have a higher tests per million figure and a lower positivity rate than the national average.
What is happening in Kerala?
From just a solitary new COVID-19 case on May 8 to clocking over 10,000 fresh infections in a single day, Kerala has seen a total reverse in the pandemic situation in the last five months. The 11,755 cases recorded on Saturday had turned out to be the biggest ever single-day surge in the state, surpassing the daily tally of Maharashtra and Karnataka for the day. Maharashtra, which is leading the states in total infections, on Saturday had reported 11,416 new cases while Karnataka added 10,517 cases.
Kerala, which won global praise for its strategy in containing the spread of the pandemic in the initial months after reporting the first COVID-19 case in the country in January, has been witnessing a sharp spike in new infections since last month. The increase was, though, on expected lines as experts had predicted that the state was likely to witness a steep rise in the months of August and September with the daily infections forecast to touch between 10,000 and 20,000. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said on Saturday said October-November months were crucial and cautioned people to strictly follow the health protocol to reduce death rates.
The country's first coronavirus case was detected in the state on January 30 after a woman medical student from Wuhan returned. The second and third cases were also Wuhan returnees, but it effectively checked any large scale spread then. From January-March, the state had 499 cases, out of which 33 per cent was through local transmission and there were three deaths. Case fatality rate at that time was 0.5 per cent. When the lockdown was declared on March 24, the government got some time to improve its health system, and up to May 3, there were no other cases.
Five months later on October 7, Kerala's fresh infections crossed 10,000 mark for the first time and on Friday, it saw an addition of 9,250 cases. The total infection count mounted to 2,77,855 on Saturday and the active cases stood at 95,918. The celebrations during the Onam festival and political protests held without following COVID-19 protocol have been cited by the government among the reasons for the growth in cases.
The age conundrum
About 47 per cent of the COVID-19 deaths in the country have been recorded among those aged below 60 years, the Centre said on Tuesday, amid a recent study that claimed that development of symptoms, severity of the disease, and mortality were highly age-dependent. The study, by scientists who modelled data from Japan, Spain and Italy, had showed that elderly people disproportionately develop severe symptoms of COVID-19 and show higher mortality.
According to Bhushan, 70 per cent COVID-19 victims in the country have been men and 30 per cent women. About 53 per cent of the victims were aged 60 years and above, he said, reiterating that elderly people and those with comorbidities are at high risk. "Also, 35 per cent deaths were recorded in the age group of 45-60 years, 10 per cent in the age group of 26-44 years and one per cent each in the age group of 18-25 years and below 17 years," Bhushan said.
Among the patients aged below 45 years, those with comorbidities accounted for 8.8 per cent of the fatalities while 0.2 per cent did not have any comorbidity. The overall case fatality rate of people with comorbidities stood at 17.9 per cent and for those without comorbidities, it was 1.2 per cent, Bhushan said.
-Inputs from agencies