Understanding COVID-19 numbers: India reported 2 lakh positive cases, but total number or world ranking of worst hit nations tells us nothing

Most headlines on Wednesday informed us that India registered a record jump in its coronavirus cases, crossing the 2 lakh-mark, and becoming the seventh worst-hit nation in the world.

Ananya Srivastava June 03, 2020 20:26:46 IST
Understanding COVID-19 numbers: India reported 2 lakh positive cases, but total number or world ranking of worst hit nations tells us nothing

Most headlines on Wednesday informed us that India registered a record jump in its coronavirus cases, crossing the 2 lakh-mark, and becoming the seventh worst-hit nation in the world.

2,00000 cases. Seventh among worst-hit nations - these are indeed eyeball grabbing points.

But what do these figures mean? Is India performing better or worse than other nations? Has the much feared 'peak' arrived? Are we any closer to flat-lining our curve than we were before lockdown 4.0? These are some of the answers missing from everyday reportage.

India crosses 2-lakh mark, but has less than 1 lakh COVID-19 patients

To begin with, the number 2 lakh represents the total persons tested positive for the virus since February, when coronavirus first started appearing in India. But that number is nowhere close to the situation today.

Of these two lakh cases, 100,303 people have already recovered, which puts the number of active cases in India closer to one lakh as of 3 June 2020. This tells us the total number of cases that India is dealing with right now, but this still doesn't reflect, how fast or slow the spread of virus was for the country.

Data suggests that in the initial days of lockdown, India did manage to decelerate the spread of infection. However, a more recent surge shows that the lockdown alone was not able to flat-line our curve as we continue to record a spike in cases and are presumably still headed towards our 'peak' of the coronavirus curve, unless future interventions prove otherwise.

It took India 65 days to reach 1 lakh total cases from a 100, but the last one lakh cases were all reported within a span of 15 days. According to the health ministry figures, India has been reporting more than 8,000 infections a day for the last three days.

Understanding COVID19 numbers India reported 2 lakh positive cases but total number or world ranking of worst hit nations tells us nothing

This is what India's current graph of coronavirus infections looks like. Courtesy: Worldometer

How does India fare globally? 

Now comes the second most commonly reported metric: Where does India rank among nations worst-hit from the coronavirus ?

We learnt on Wednesday that India is now the seventh worst-hit nation by the COVID-19 pandemic after the US, Brazil, Russia, the UK, Spain and Italy. But this statement alone fails to capture how well, or poorly India performed in arresting the outbreak when compared to nations worst-hit with the pandemic.

Understanding COVID19 numbers India reported 2 lakh positive cases but total number or world ranking of worst hit nations tells us nothing

How India fares amongst seven worst-hit countries. Courtesy: Worldometer

News18 analysis showed that India was the slowest among the top 7 nations to hit the 2 lakh mark.

The US — at the top of the chart — took just five days to jump from one lakh to two lakh cases as they were almost hitting their peak then. Italy was past its peak during this phase and thus the growth was slower — they took 29 days to go from one lakh to two lakh cases. Spain took 19 days, while UK took 20. The cases in Russia were booming as the country added its second lakh in just about 10 days. Brazil, which seems to be just about peaking now, took 11 days.

India took 15 days to jump from a lakh to two lakh total cases, which is better than US (5 days), Russia (10) and Brazil (11) but worse than Italy (29), Spain (19) and UK (20).

Among countries with the highest burden of cases, India, US, Brazil and Russia are the ones that have not yet flattened their curves, as cases keep growing at a steady pace.

However, the one metric where India did do well as compared to the other six nations on the list is the recovery and mortality rates. Fewer people died due to COVID-19 in India and more people recovered in the same time span as compared to the US, UK, Brazil, Russia, Spain and Italy.

India’s Mortality Rate (MR) of 2.81 is the second-lowest among the seven countries only after Russia (1.19 percent), but there are reports of serious under-reporting from Moscow, News18 reported. Just for perspective, the corresponding MR of Italy is 14.35 percent, for UK it’s 14.13 percent, for Spain it’s 9.46 percent, US has 5.75 percent and Brazil has 5.68 percent.

India also has the lowest number of deaths per million population among the seven worst hit nations. It is the only country to have a single digit figure (4). Spain and UK reported the highest, 580 deaths per million population, while Italy was third at 555; US reported 347 deaths per million population, Brazil reported 147 while  Russia reported 36 deaths per million population.

Around 48.31 percent of the patients have recovered so far, a health ministry official told PTI.

India has also done remarkably well in limiting the reach of the virus. The virus has been largely restricted within densely populated urban clusters and mega cities so far and has spared large swathes of rural areas and hinterland, which have poorer healthcare infrastructure.

Even though migrant workers returning home from virus hotspots like Delhi and Mumbai are turning out to be silent carriers, rigorous checking and mandatory quarantine upon arrival means that the country is managing to circumscribe the contact points of a single carrier. This shows up in the data too.

According to worldometer statistics, India has the lowest (151 cases per million population) among countries worst hit by the pandemic. Spain has the highest at 6,139 cases per million population.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date:

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