India's COVID-19 numbers explained: The graph is declining, but winter, festive season could change all that

10 states are in the thick of action in the fight against the coronavirus


On Saturday, India's active coronavirus cases remained below the 9 lakh mark for a second consecutive day, with active cases now constituting merely 12.65 per cent of the total 69 lakh caseload. The total COVID-19 recoveries have gone up to almost 60 lakh now, further enhancing the difference with respect to the active cases. There is a steady decline in India's coronavirus graph, as the numbers clear show. "The country has recorded the highest number of COVID-19 recoveries in the world at over 56 lakh and conducted the second highest number of tests at 8.10 crore," the ministry said. "New recoveries have been more than the new cases over the last two weeks. New cases being reported in the last 14 days are below the previous high of 90,000 per day."

September 9: 8,97,394 (active cases)

September 18: 10,17,754

September 29: 9,62,640

October 10: 8,83,185

What do the numbers further tell us? Will the decline in cases hold with the onset of winter and the associated risks?

Deeper into the numbers

About 48 per cent of the COVID-19 deaths in the country have been reported from 25 districts in eight states, of which 15 districts are in Maharashtra alone, according to a health ministry count on October 6. Of these 25 districts, 15 are in Maharashtra alone, two each in Karnataka, West Bengal and Gujarat and one each in Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. The average daily COVID-19 positivity rate has declined from the 9.21 per cent recorded between September 16 and 22 to 6.82 per cent between September 30 and October 6.

18 states and UTs—Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Delhi, Mizoram, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Punjab, Chandigarh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Goa—account for 76 per cent of the newly recovered cases. 

10 states are in the thick of action in the fight against the coronavirus, accounting for the highest counts in both the newly reported and newly recovered numbers. 

The health ministry said that 79 per cent of the 73,272 fresh infections registered in a span of 24 hours are from 10 states and UTs—Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Odisha. Maharashtra is still reporting a very high number of new cases with more than 12,000 infections, followed by Karnataka with nearly 11,000 cases.

Maharashtra: 12,134 cases

Karnataka: 10,913

Kerala: 9,250 cases

Tamil Nadu: 5,185

Andhra Pradesh: 5,145

West Bengal: 3,573

Uttar Pradesh: 3,207

Chhattisgarh: 2,998

Delhi: 2,860

Odisha: 2,697

As much as 76 per cent of the new recovered cases were also observed to be concentrated in the same 10 states and UTs—Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Delhi, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh. Maharashtra continues to contribute the maximum with more than 17,000 single-day recoveries.

Maharashtra: 17,323 cases 

Karnataka: 9,091

Kerala: 8,048

Andhra Pradesh: 6,110

Tamil Nadu: 5,357

Uttar Pradesh: 4,424

Odisha: 3,404

Delhi: 3,098

West Bengal: 3,069

Chhattisgarh: 2,908

What does winter have in store?

The onset of the winter and the festive season holds some serious concerns. A National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) report has warned that Delhi alone is likely to report around 15,000 COVID-19 cases daily because of the prevalence of respiratory illnesses during this season that worsen symptoms of the disease. 

Other respiratory viruses similar to the novel coronavirus—SARS-CoV-2—follow seasonal patterns, especially in temperate regions. Influenza and several types of coronaviruses that cause common cold are known to peak in winter in temperate regions, but circulate year-round in tropical regions.

According to the report submitted to the Delhi government, there are three reasons to worry that may cause excessive pressure on healthcare services such as winter months that make respiratory illnesses severe and with festive gatherings there could be a sudden rise in cases. Also, patients may come from outside Delhi in large numbers. Patients coming from distant areas are likely to be more serious, the report underlined. "Therefore, it is recommended that Delhi should prepare for a daily surge of ~15,000 positive cases and make arrangements for inpatient admissions of patients with moderate and severe disease roughly amounting to 20 per cent of this surge," the report said.

It also recommended the states to reach out to opinion makers, opposition, religious leaders and people at large to develop a consensus to have these festivals with little or no gatherings. "Coming festivals [Chhat, Puja, Dussehra, Deepavali, Eid, Christmas, New year] pose a huge challenge in the pandemic control. It has been seen that Onam in Kerala and Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra escalated the pandemic seriously. This must not be allowed to happen in Delhi," the report stated.

With the festive season posing a major challenge, the Union health ministry has already issued guidelines for large gatherings, including ensuring adequate area for events with a detailed site map and proper markings to maintain social distancing and not allowing touching of idols and holy books, to prevent the spread of infection. Festive events shall be permitted only outside the containment zones, while people residing in the restricted areas may be encouraged to observe all festivals inside their homes and not move out, according to the ministry. Gujarat government has already banned garba events in the state during Navratri, starting from October 17. 

As far as feasible recorded devotional music/songs may be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed, the SOPs stated. All staff and visitors will be allowed entry only if they are using face cover/masks, which have to be worn by all at all times and physical distance of a minimum of six feet, when queuing up for entry and inside the venue, as far as feasible has to be followed. Specific markings for the purpose may be done.

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