India reported a further drop in new coronavirus cases on Monday, although daily deaths remained above 4,000 and experts warned the tally was unreliable due to a lack of testing in rural areas , where the virus spreads quickly.
For months now, nowhere in the world has been hit harder than India by the pandemic, as a new strain of the virus first found there has fueled an outbreak of infections that has grown to more than 400,000 per day.
Even with a slowdown over the past few days, experts said there was no certainty that infections had peaked, with growing alarms both at home and abroad over the new variant plus. contagious of B.1.617.
“There are still many parts of the country that have not yet experienced the peak, they continue to climb,” Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist of the World Health Organization, told The Bharat Express News newspaper.
Ms Swaminathan pointed to the extremely high national positivity rate, at around 20% of tests performed, as a sign that there could be worse to come.
“Testing is still insufficient in a large number of states. And when you see high positivity rates, we’re obviously not testing enough. And so absolute numbers mean nothing when taken on their own; they should be taken in the context of the amount of tests performed and the test positivity rate. “
After starting to decline last week, new infections in the past 24 hours were valued at 2.81,386 by the Department of Health on Monday, dropping below 300,000 for the first time since April 21. The daily death toll was 4,106.
At the current rate, India’s total caseload since the epidemic hit a year ago is expected to cross the 25 million mark in the coming days. The total number of deaths has been estimated at 2,74,390.
Hospitals have had to turn away patients while mortuaries and crematoriums have been unable to cope with the accumulation of bodies. Photographs and televised footage of funeral pyres burning in parking lots and corpses washed up on the banks of the Ganges have fueled impatience over the government’s handling of the crisis.
It is widely believed that official figures vastly underestimate the actual impact of the outbreak, with some experts claiming that actual infections and deaths could be five to ten times higher.
While the first wave of the epidemic in India, which peaked in September, was largely concentrated in urban areas, where testing was introduced more quickly, the second wave that erupted in February is raging in rural towns and villages. , where about two-thirds of the country’s 1.35 billion people live, and testing in those places is sorely lacking.
“This drop in confirmed cases of Covid in India is an illusion,” said on Twitter S. Vincent Rajkumar, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in the United States.
“First, due to limited testing, the total number of cases is a huge underestimate. Second, confirmed cases can only occur where you can confirm: urban areas. Rural areas are not counted.”
While lockdowns have helped limit cases in parts of the country that were hit by an initial outbreak of infections in February and April, such as Maharashtra and Delhi, rural areas and some states are facing further outbreaks.
The government on Sunday released detailed guidelines for monitoring COVID-19 cases, with the health ministry asking villages to find people with flu-like illnesses and get them tested for COVID-19.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticized for his message to the public, the decision to leave key decisions on lockdowns to states and the slow rollout of a vaccination campaign in the world’s largest vaccine producer.
India has fully immunized just over 40.4 million people, or 2.9% of its population.
A senior virologist told Reuters on Sunday that he had resigned from a forum of scientific advisers set up by the government to detect variants of the coronavirus.
Shahid Jameel, chair of the scientific advisory group of the forum known as INSACOG, declined to say why he resigned, but expressed concern that authorities were not paying enough attention to the evidence when they defined the policy.