Explained: Why Covid numbers are rising, but why we needn’t panic just yet


India has seen a slight increase in the number of Covid-19 cases over the past week, with 2,514 fresh cases reported in the last 24 hours as compared to 2,183 cases reported the previous Monday (April 18). The number of active cases – or those with are currently infected – was 16,522 on Monday (April 25) as compared to 11,542 on April 18, as per Ministry of Health data.

The weekly positivity rate – that is, the proportion of samples tested that return positive, which is indicative of the spread of the infection in the community – has increased from 0.32% on April 18 to 0.54% this Monday, according to Health Ministry data. This is despite the fact that the number of tests increased from 2.6 lakh on April 18 to 3.02 lakh on April 25, thus widening the denominator.

The uptick in cases and positivity comes weeks after all Covid-19 related restrictions were removed from across the country.

Where are cases increasing?

The current increase in the number of cases nationally is driven mainly by Delhi and its neighbouring states like Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Of the 2,541 cases recorded across the country in the last 24 hours, nearly 1,000 were in Delhi itself.

The number of cases started increasing in Delhi in mid-April, nearly two weeks after the mask mandates were done away with. (It has since been reintroduced in Delhi, and in four districts of Haryana and five districts of Uttar Pradesh surrounding Delhi.)

After remaining low following the January surge in cases, the numbers started going up in mid April in Delhi. It seems to now have stagnated, with nearly 1,000 fresh cases reported for the last five days.

Keeping the low numbers in mind, schools were re-opened and mask mandates were removed in the beginning of April. However, since mid-April, the number of cases in the capital steadily rose from about 100 to over 1,000 in about two weeks.

This increase, however, hasn’t been as steep as Delhi Delhi has seen before.

Cases rose from just over 100 to just over 1,000 in 16 days in the capital during the current uptick. In comparison, it took just 10 days for a similar increase in cases during the December-January surge, with cases crossing the 2,000-mark in 12 days and the 5,000-mark in 15 days of the numbers being around 100.

From 5,000, the number of cases had jumped to 10,000 within a day, with the peak of 28,867 cases recorded in another eight days.

Should we be worrying about the increase in cases?

Dr Lalit Kant, former head of the department of epidemiology at the Indian Council of Medical Research said, “An increase in the number of cases was expected once people started taking off masks. There will be periodic ups and downs in the number of cases, what is important are the number of severe disease and deaths.”

Hospitals so far have reported very few admissions. Bigger hospitals like Lok Nayak and All India Institute of Medical Sciences have been reporting only a handful of admissions with the infection. The doctors say that most people are getting a high grade fever, cough, cold and sore throat, and recovering within three to five days.

Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inbox

The number of deaths has seen a slight increase, though – 10 deaths were reported due to Covid-19 in the last 14 days since the numbers started increasing, whereas six deaths were reported in the 14 days preceding that. However, doctors say the deaths were only in severely co-morbid and elderly patients, who make up the most vulnerable group.

Bottomline: It isn’t yet time to start worrying perhaps, but we should continue to be mindful of the virus, and remain vigilant.

Is there a need for more restrictions?

After the cases started increasing, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority re-introduced a fine of Rs 500 for not wearing masks outdoors. Experts say that instead of mandates, masking should be enforced with health education.

But other than masking, they say there is no need to increase restrictions at this juncture. Epidemiologist Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, said, “How long can we continue the masking mandates and other restrictions? At present, even if people do get the infection, the disease is mild and there is no need for enforcing lockdowns or closing schools.”