Late on Monday, the number of Covid-19 deaths around the world crossed 250,000. That’s a grim number, whichever way you look at it. On Tuesday, the global tally stood at over 252,000 dead, 3.66 million cases, and 1.2 million recoveries. Are more of the new cases asymptomatic? Data on worldometers.info would seem to suggest so – the proportion of mild cases (2.15 million) among active cases (2.2 million) has increased by a full percentage point from 97% to 98% over the past week. And out of 1.46 million closed cases, 83% (1.2 million) were recoveries, and the rest deaths. With 1.2 million cases, the US alone accounts for a third of Covid-19 cases; and with 70,000 deaths, almost 28% of all fatalities.
India ended Monday with 46,388 cases and 1,494 deaths. The number of deaths from the coronavirus disease crossed 100 in a day for the first time. India may have somewhat flattened the curve, but it hasn’t defeated the virus yet – like New Zealand and Australia have, for instance.
In both countries, the number of daily cases as well as daily deaths has come down. To be sure, as I have previously written, the number to watch is daily deaths. The number of daily cases can be misleading. This could be on account of complete confusion on reporting the numbers, perhaps driven by the desire to make things look better than they are (West Bengal is a case in point) (see page 9); or it could be on account of certain numbers not being aggregated (the private test numbers in Maharashtra weren’t, for instance, and were added to the total in one swoop on Monday, resulting in a spike in daily cases); or it could simply be because test results come in two, three, four, sometimes even five days later. The Delhi high court directed the Delhi government on Monday to ensure all reports came in within 48 hours of a test, but this applies only to Delhi. The number of deaths isn’t as misleading, although even that has seen some confusion arising from misreporting.
As India exits the lockdown gradually – phase 3 of the nationwide lockdown is actually a graded exit – this will be the number to watch. In the US, for instance, the number of daily deaths and cases could rise sharply by June 1 as the country reopens, the New York Times reported Monday, citing internal Trump administration documents (see page 12). According to that report, the number of new cases in the US could touch 200,000 a day, and the number of deaths up to 3,000. The corresponding current numbers are 30,000 and 1,750, NYT reported.
The trajectory of the disease in India, as this column has repeatedly pointed out, is very different from that in the US. Indeed, it could almost be called benign, if not for the inappropriateness of using such a term for a dangerous virus. Still, the scenario predicted in the US is important because it highlights that victory over the Sars-CoV-2 virus which causes Covid-19 requires persistence, and that there will not be one day of victory – unless you are New Zealand – but many: one when the number of daily cases starts reducing during a lockdown; another when the number of deaths do; still another when the number of daily cases starts reducing after a lockdown is removed; a fourth when a country successfully combats a second wave (and most experts are sure that there will be one); and a fifth and sixth and so on until a vaccine is discovered, and, more importantly, becomes accessible to all.