Coronavirus: India’s Covid-19 cases surge past one million

India added a record number of Covid-19 cases – nearly 35,000 – in the last 24 hours, breaching the one million mark.

It has the world’s third-largest case load, after the US and Brazil – the only three countries so far to record more than a million coronavirus cases. 

India’s active cases account for about a third of its total tally as it has been reporting a high recovery rate and a low death rate from the virus.

A health worker in PPE talking to a woman during a swab Covid-19 rapid antigen tests at a government school.
India has ramped up testing in recent weeks – GETTY IMAGES

But deaths have been rising. At 25,602, they are eighth-highest in the world. 

India’s number of cases has been on the rise – with nearly record daily surges – in recent weeks. It overtook Russia earlier this month to occupy the third spot for the highest number of coronavirus cases globally.

A chart showing India's cumulative Covid-19 cases.

Although India confirmed its first case at the end of January, the pandemic took hold slowly. Experts believe it was staved off to some extent because of an early decision by the government – in March – to stop all international flights and enter a strict lockdown that lasted nearly two months. 

But the restrictions came at a devastating economic and human cost, and after India reopened at the end of June and testing increased, case numbers soared. 

India’s grinding lockdown destroyed the livelihood of millions

Experts say the capital, Delhi, and some other states squandered the opportunity given by the lockdown to test, trace and isolate effectively. 

While the capital territory has since seen a dip in cases, they continue to rise in other parts of India. 

The western state of Maharashtra is still the biggest hotspot with the highest case count- more than 280,000 – among all the states. 

A man reads a newspaper while sitting in front of closed shops in a commercial area during a week-long lockdown to contain the surge of COVID-19 coronavirus cases, in Bangalore on July 15, 2020.
Bangalore has entered a week-long lockdown amid a spike in cases.

But potential new hotspots are emerging as states in the south – Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh – and in the east – Bihar, West Bengal – record a rapid rise in daily case numbers. 

They have responded with local lockdowns – the southern city of Chennai (Madras) has emerged from a recent lockdown and Bangalore, also in the south, is currently under a week-long lockdown. 

Although India has fully reopened, intermittent local lockdowns are likely to be the new normal as the country wrestles with the pandemic.

Is India’s death rate really that low?

Aparna Alluri and Shadab Nazmi 

The best news for India when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic is the unusually low death rate. 

In absolute numbers, it’s the eighth highest tally in the world. But per million of the population, it is low.

Chart showing India is reporting far fewer deaths per million than badly hit Western countries.

There have been a lot of questions around India’s Covid-19 death figures, and most experts agree that they are probably being underreported. 

But they also say that alone doesn’t explain the significant gap between India and Western Europe, for instance.

And India’s Covid-19 death rate is also similar to other countries in the region – such as Bangladesh and Indonesia. 


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