The nation crossed a sombre milestone on Thursday—a million Indians were infected by the coronavirus that is coursing its way through the country. More than 25,000 have perished.
But amid the suffering and fear, there is new hope that things will soon turn around. Vaccine candidates are showing promising results and new treatments are helping patients recover faster.
Low mortality rates, rising recoveries, increase in testing and a boost to investment in health infrastructure have also emerged as a silver lining. While the coronavirus caseload is high at 1,001,508, the bulk of the infections are restricted to a handful of states.
Only two states, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, now constitute 48% of the country’s total active caseload, according to the Union health ministry. Just 10 states account for 85% of the total active caseload.
Starting mid-June, when India crossed the 50% mark in the recovery rate, there has been a steady increase in the number of recovered patients. The rate is currently 63.25%.
“The actual caseload of covid-19 patients in the country is only 331,146. They contribute a little more than one-third (34%) of total cases detected so far. The actual caseload of covid-19 has remained limited and manageable in the country,” the Union health ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
The health ministry said that the national covid-19 fatality rate is 2.6% and falling. Deaths per million population in India is also among the lowest in the world.
“We have managed to keep the case fatality ratio low, ramped up testing successfully, especially through the use of rapid tests, technology use with telemedicine, put two Indian made vaccine in clinical trials and became self-sufficient in PPEs (protective gear) and masks,” said Lalit Kant, a scientist and former head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
The government claims containment measures, including house-to-house surveys, perimeter control activities, contact tracing and surveillance of containment zones, aggressive testing and timely diagnosis and effective clinical management of the moderate and severe cases have substantially increased chances of recovery.
“Less than 2% of the covid-19 patients are admitted in ICUs,” said health minister Harsh Vardhan.
Community medicine specialists said the government should focus more on non-medical interventions and make better use of data to contain the pandemic.
“Exclusive reliance on medical measures can provide a false sense of assurance. Neglecting non-medical interventions to tackle the enormously enlarged problem of hunger, housing and other relief has enormously undermined people’s condition, and its impact on covid-19 is not even on the agenda,” said Vikas Bajpai, assistant professor, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
However, the biggest hope to contain the pandemic rests on two indigenous vaccine candidates that will enter human trials this month. More than 1,000 volunteers are to be enrolled for the process.
India has also used the lockdown to ramp up health infrastructure. The infrastructure to treat covid consists of 1,381 dedicated hospitals, 3,100 healthcare centres and 10,367 covid care centres. They together have a capacity of 46,666 ICU beds.