Covid-19: What you need to know today

Ten million cases, half a million dead. That’s the global Covid-19 count as we near the end of June. It’s summer in Western Europe, which seems to have put the worst behind it, and the United States, which saw its two highest single-day numbers in terms of cases on Friday and Saturday. The monsoon has settled in across India, a week-and-half earlier than it usually does, but like Hokusai’s famous wave (did you know that it’s the world’s most reproduced image?), the pandemic rolls on.

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The seven-day average of the cases in the US seemed to be trending down in the middle of June but the curve has now reared its ugly head again, and is trending up. The country accounts for a quarter of all cases, and a fourth of all deaths. Size, it would appear, is not to the US’s advantage. The US is the world’s fourth largest country by land area (India is the seventh, and would do well to pay heed to what’s happening in that country), and as cases come down in one state, they start rising in another. The country’s southern and western states are among those showing the most cases now. New York, an early epicentre of the disease, is now calm.

What New York State and New York City were to the US till they got things under control, Delhi, Maharashtra (and Mumbai), and Tamil Nadu (and Chennai) are to India. On Saturday, as India registered 20,179 new cases according to the HT dashboard, the highest daily number so far, the three states recorded 2,948 (Delhi), 6,368 (Maharashtra), and 3,713 (Tamil Nadu) infections. That’s a total of 13,029 or 64.5% of the total number of new cases in the country. This is a trend that has been maintained for weeks now (and which this column has mentioned time and again). It’s a trend that’s evident in the total numbers as well: of the 529,485 cases of Covid-19 India has seen thus far (till Saturday evening), 80,188 have come from Delhi, 159,133 from Maharashtra, and 78,335 from Tamil Nadu. That’s 60% of the total. Of the 16,101 deaths in the country, Delhi accounts for 2,558, Maharashtra, 7,273, and Tamil Nadu, 1,025. That’s 67.4% of the total. On the positive side, of the 309,526 people who have recovered from the coronavirus disease in the country, 49,301 are from Delhi, 84,245 from Maharashtra, and 44,094 from Tamil Nadu. That’s 57.4%.

Despite the number of cases, there is some reason for cheer. On Saturday, Delhi tested 19,180 samples for 2,948 new cases; Maharashtra, 24,999 for 6,368, and Tamil Nadu, 34,805 for 3,713. On Friday, Delhi tested 21,144 samples for 3,460 new cases, Maharashtra, 23,849 for 5,024 and Tamil Nadu, 33,675 for 3,645.

Tamil Nadu’s positivity rate (number of positive cases to tests) was 10.82% on Friday and 10.66% on Saturday — both in the 7-11% range the state has been maintaining (which is well below the peak positivity rates it once displayed).

Delhi’s positivity rate on Friday was 16.36% and on Saturday, 15.37%, still high, but well off its peaks again.

Maharashtra bucks this trend, unfortunately. Its positivity rate on Friday was 21% and on Saturday, 25.5%. These are among the highest the state has seen.

It’s clear (especially if you have been reading this column regularly; I’ve become obsessed with positivity rates in recent weeks) that Delhi has begun to test adequately (hurrah!), Tamil Nadu is testing adequately, and Maharashtra has to test even more aggressively.

How many people should be tested?

There are no rules, but based on the experience of every country ravaged by the virus, and India’s own constraints, I think it would be good for small states to test 5% of the population and large ones, 3-5% (caveat: this isn’t based on science; the US and many countries in Western Europe have tested 8-12% of their population). In Delhi, that would translate into a million tests, or half a million more to be done. At its current rate, the state could get them done in the next 25 days.

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