In India, a COVID 'Crack' Turns Into a 'Huge Chasm'

In just 3 weeks, nation went from world's 6th worst-affected country to 3rd
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 11, 2020 5:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – In just three weeks, India went from the world’s sixth worst-affected country by the coronavirus to the third, per a tally by Johns Hopkins University. India's fragile health system was bolstered during a stringent monthslong lockdown, but it could still be overwhelmed by an exponential rise in infections, per the AP. India has tallied more than 793,800 infections and over 21,600 deaths, with cases doubling every three weeks. It's testing more than 250,000 samples daily, but experts say that's insufficient for a country of nearly 1.4 billion people. The Health Ministry said Thursday India was doing "relatively well" managing COVID-19, noting 13 deaths per 1 million people, compared to about 400 in the US and 320 in Brazil. But knowing the actual toll in India is "absolutely impossible," as there's no reporting mechanism in most places for any kind of death, per a Vellore epidemiologist.

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The southern state of Kerala, where India's first three virus cases were reported, has been held up as a model. It isolated patients early, traced and quarantined contacts, and tested aggressively. By contrast, Delhi, the state that includes the national capital, has been sharply criticized for failing to anticipate a surge of cases in recent weeks as lockdown measures eased. Patients have died after being turned away from COVID-designated hospitals that said they were at capacity. As the capital rushes to conjure new beds, officials admit they're worried about the lack of trained and experienced health care workers. Per a Georgetown University economics professor, there's "no central coordination" to move health care staff from one state to another, exposing India's relative inability to use data to guide policy decisions: "The one big thing that we're learning ... is it takes any cracks in our systems and it drives a chisel to them. ... It's no longer a crack, it's a huge chasm." Much more here.

(Read more India stories.)

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