Data | Dissecting India’s second COVID-19 wave

Since April 3, India has been consistently recording the highest number of daily cases globally, surpassing the U.S. and Brazil on an average

The second wave of COVID-19 in India appears to be ascending faster than the first wave that peaked in mid-September last year. It is crucial to note that the number of COVID-19 tests being conducted daily during the second wave is much higher than the first. Currently, the positivity rate (cases found per 100 tests) is still lower than that in the first wave in many high burden States. Also, due to an enormous rise in cases and a not-so-sharp rise in deaths, the Case Fatality Rate (CFR: deaths/ cases) is either stable or even decreasing across States. Nevertheless, India is already leading the world in terms of average daily cases detected and registers the third-highest average daily deaths. A significant drop in already low testing levels after the first wave and a weakened contact tracing system as the pandemic advanced, besides a surge in public mobility, could be the reasons behind the second wave. Initially, the second wave was confined to a few States. Currently, barring a few States and Union Territories, all regions are recording spikes in varying degrees. While the States have responded well by increasing testing levels, this is still not sufficient compared to the size of their respective outbreaks. Also, India’s vaccination drive is on a slow lane, and wide disparities exist among States in the number of doses being administered.

No. 1 in cases

Since April 3, India has been consistently recording the highest number of daily cases globally, surpassing the U.S. and Brazil on an average. India now accounts for one in every six new global cases. The last time India led the world in daily cases was during the first wave in September

Data as on April 8

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No. 3 in deaths

Since April 4, India has been consistently recording the third-highest number of average daily deaths due to COVID-19 globally after the U.S. and Brazil. As on April 8, Brazil (2,820 average new deaths), followed by the U.S. (978), accounted for the highest daily deaths in the world.

Data as on April 8

Low testing

India’s testing levels, though higher in absolute numbers, have always remained lower relative to its population. They dropped further after the first wave ended. The graph compares average daily tests per 1,000 people among high-burden countries. As of April 3, India had conducted 7.44 lakh daily tests on an average.

Data as on April 3

Poor tracing

As cases ballooned, many contacts of patients could not be traced by States. Even Kerala’s contact tracing mechanism, its strong suit during the first wave, has not been working with the same fervour.When the caseload was high, at least 10% of cases were untraceable (no known contacts or travel history). Despite cases lowering recently, 7% are still untraceable.

Mobility returns

After the first wave ended by October 2020, public mobility (measured by Google) improved. ”Grocery and pharmacy visits” crossed into the positive territory (more mobility than baseline value) after November. Other mobility indicators also improved.

Data as on April 5

Initially, Punjab and Maharashtra led the case surge during the second wave. But now, almost every State/U.T. is recording a rise. The graphs below depict the average new cases and average new deaths in the States/U.T.s.

Data as on April 8

While India has conducted more tests during the second wave than it did during the peak of the first wave, it still lags behind many other nations in daily tests and testing levels relative to the size of the outbreak. However, the trend is uneven across States.

Global scenario

The chart plots the average daily tests conducted per lakh people against the average daily tests conducted per confirmed case (TPC) in various countries as on April 6. For both parameters, the higher the number, the better is the testing response.

Data as on April 5

Among States

The graphic repeats the above exercise for Indian States.

Data as on April 7

India has conducted a relatively low number of tests, which was insufficient for the size of the outbreak. Among States, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra were not testing adequately for their outbreak size.

Vaccinations on a slow lane

India has administered 6,840 doses per 1 lakh people as of April 8, lower than the world average of 9,410 doses. India’s vaccination rate is relatively slower than that of comparable economies.

Vaccinations in India

The table repeats the above exercise for four major States with the highest and lowest vaccine doses administered as on April 8.

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