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With infections soaring, India is becoming the new global epicentre of coronavirus

MUMBAI, AUG 31 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 8/31/2020 1:05:16 PM IST

India is fast becoming the world’s new virus epicenter, setting a record for the biggest single-day rise in cases as experts predict that it’ll soon pass Brazil — and ultimately the U.S. — as the worst outbreak globally.

As many as 78,761 new cases were added Sunday, the most any country has ever reported in one day, while 971 deaths were reported on Monday, pushing the Asian country past Mexico for the third-highest number of deaths worldwide. At the current trajectory, India’s outbreak will eclipse Brazil’s in about a week, and the U.S. in about two months.

And unlike the U.S. and Brazil, India’s case growth is still accelerating seven months after the reporting of its first coronavirus case on Jan. 30. The pathogen has only just penetrated the vast rural hinterland where the bulk of its 1.3 billion population lives, after racing through its dense mega-cities.

As the world’s second largest country, and one with a relatively poor public health system, it’s inevitable that India’s outbreak becomes the world’s biggest, said Naman Shah, an adjunct faculty member at the country’s National Institute of Epidemiology.

From the Philippines to Peru, the novel coronavirus poses a unique problem to poor countries: the densely packed slums where millions of their citizens live present ideal conditions for the virus to spread, while their economic precariousness means that the shutdowns necessary to contain the pathogen are intolerable.

Across the developing world, economies have been forced to open up even with the virus still running rampant, quickly overwhelming underfunded hospitals. The list of worst-affected countries globally has accordingly shifted from rich to poor as the pandemic races around the world. Where once countries like Italy, Spain and the U.K. had the biggest outbreaks and highest death tolls, now the U.S is the only advanced economy in the top ten, among other developing nations like Mexico, Peru and South Africa.

Nowhere has the developing world’s plight played out more viscerally than in India, where an ambitious national lockdown imposed in March was lifted after two months as joblessness, starvation and a mass migration of workers leaving cities on foot became too much to bear.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has since counseled the population to “live with the virus” while giving local officials freedom to impose restrictions on a state-by-state basis, which many have. With antibody studies in capital New Delhi and other cities showing that the number of people with signs of past infection is between 40 and 200 times greater than the official case count, the true size of India’s epidemic is probably far larger than its reported 3.6 million infections. And there is every reason to believe that the coronavirus is still only getting started in India. Much of the country’s coronavirus burden so far has fallen on its globally connected megacities like New Delhi and Mumbai, but the disease is now starting to shift to its rural hinterland where nearly 900 million people live, and health-care infrastructure is sparse. 

A lack of testing and medical help will likely mean that scores of infections and deaths are going unreported. The Modi government has often pointed to India’s official mortality rate of around 1.8% — among the lowest in the world — as evidence that it is managing the virus’ spread, even if not containing it.

 

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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