New Delhi ’s trajectory of daily cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) on Friday became the highest ever recorded by any country, which means that the outbreak in the country currently is worse than it was at the peak in the United States (US) – the worst-hit nation in the world.
At an average, 69,558 new cases were reported in India every day over the past week, placing it above the seven-day daily case peak recorded in the US when the number touched 69,330 for the week ending July 25. The US’s trajectory was the worst in the world in the eight months since the coronavirus disease surfaced in December 2019.
On Friday, India reported 76,139 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total number of cases in the country to 3,458,186. To be sure, the US has over six million confirmed infections, more than 1.8 times those in India, which is unlikely to overtake America any time soon.
Brazil, which is the country with the second-highest number of total cases, has around 350,000 more cases than India. The South American nation, however, has been adding around 30,000 fewer cases than India every day recently, so the latter has been closing the gap fast.
New cases in India have been rising at an alarming rate and have shown no signs of a let-up. India’s doubling rate — the rate at which the total cases in the country would double — was 32 days on Friday against 96 days in the US and 68 in Brazil. For doubling rates, a higher number mean rising at an alarming rate and have shown no signs of a let-up. India’s doubling rate — the rate at which the total cases in the country would double — was 32 days on Friday against 96 days in the US and 68 in Brazil. For doubling rates, a higher number means cases are growing at a slower (thus better) rate. In fact, India has the worst doubling rate among the world’s 10 worst-hit nations.
However, with 62,703 total deaths as of Friday, India’s case fatality rate (CFR) – the proportion of deaths among the confirmed cases — is 1.8%, which is not only much better than the global average of 3.4%, but also better than the US (3.1%) and Brazil (3.2%).
ABRUPT vs STEADY TRAJECTORIES
The US became the worst-hit nation in the world on the back of two separate and massive case spikes. The first spike, which was milder, peaked towards early April and was centred in the country’s north-east with states such as New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania reporting high cases.
Towards the end of June, a second spike started with new epicentres such as California, Texas and Florida, pushing new cases to record highs again. In this phase, the US set the global record for the highest cases in a single day on July 24 when it reported 78,586 infections. The country’s seven-day average peaked a day later on July 25. Since then, this wave of infections has also waned and the country is currently reporting around 42,000 new cases every day.
In Brazil, the trajectory has been the most erratic of these three. It has seen smaller waves of infections that have dropped thrice — in mid-June, mid-July and mid-August. However, cases appear to have hit a plateau in the past two weeks, averaging around 37,000 new cases every day, against over 46,000 in the last week of July.
Unlike the other two nations where the new case trend lines are uneven, the caseload in India has grown gradually and has not had any abrupt spike. But this does not necessarily translate to good news because it also means that the trajectory in India has never hit a plateau. With almost all states (except Delhi) reporting record high cases over the past few weeks, this trajectory has not yet exhibited any signs of slowing down.
To be sure, the three countries are rather similar demographically, which may explain the extended trajectory of the pandemic. The US is the world’s third largest country by geographical area, Brazil fifth, and India seventh. As the infection wanes in one part of the country, it waxes in another. In terms of population, India is the second most populous country in the world, the US third, and Brazil sixth. Expectedly, per capita infection and death numbers are low for all three countries compared to smaller and less populous nations.