India's second wave of covid-19 continues to set grim new records. On April 25th India detected more than 350,000 new cases—the most in a single day in any country at any stage in the pandemic. This number has reached new highs for five days in a row. So bad has India’s outbreak become that it now accounts for some 38% of global cases—up from just 9% a month ago. That is the highest share reached by an individual country since the early stages of the pandemic.
The second wave began in the state of Maharashtra, where new cases appear to have peaked at around 70,000 a day. But cases are still growing at a terrifying speed in other states, such as West Bengal, which is in the midst of a drawn-out election campaign. Cases there have reached 15,000 a day, and appear to be growing fast. On April 22nd India’s election commission banned political rallies in the state, for fear they were helping to propagate the outbreak.
There are widespread fears that these numbers, alarming as they are, fail to capture the true magnitude of India’s second wave. Especially in rural areas, testing is limited. Even in cities, testing capacity has been overwhelmed by the sheer number of suspected infections. A good indicator of the proportion of infections being captured by the official data is the share of tests that come back positive. The World Health Organisation considers an epidemic under control if that proportion is below 5%. In America at the moment, it is about 7%. In Britain it is 0.2%. In India as a whole, it is 25%; in West Bengal, it is 29% and in India’s capital city, Delhi, it is more than 30%.
The best hope for dampening the second wave is to vaccinate more. India is administering some 3m doses a day. But in a country of 1.4bn this is only a drop in the ocean. Just over 10% of people have received at least one dose. At the present rate, it will be next year before all adults are vaccinated.
This article is from our Graphic detail section.