Cloud of uncertainty still looms over Delhi's improved COVID-19 scenario

Summary

India's national capital- Delhi, has become the first city to show recovering signs from the COVID-19 pandemic. From an average of 3446 daily new cases during the week ending June 26, it is now recording an average of just 1333 per day in the past week. With a high recovery rate of 85%, it has recently scaled up testing as well. The mortality rate has also been checked. Delhi has done all this without imposing any additional lockdowns, and it is learnt that this might have helped Delhi get a certain degree of herd immunity. However, with uncertainty attached to the virus's behavior, new infections may soon emerge in the unexposed territory in the guise of a second wave. The Delhi government's fight seems to be far from over.

Delhi’s promising trend

With India crossing 1.2 million total COVID-19 cases and almost 30,000 deaths, its capital state- Delhi is the first to show some positive signs. The city has been seeing a steady decline in the past four weeks. The situation was quite the opposite a few weeks back. It was on May 28, Delhi reported above 1000 cases for the first time. From there on, daily new cases kept rising, and the city headed towards becoming the “corona capital” of the country.

However, after reaching its peak on June 23, 2020, at 3,947 cases, the COVID-19 is slowing fast in Delhi. The daily new cases have dropped from an average of 3446 new cases per day during the week ending June 26 to an average of just 1333 per day in the past week. Though it has a total of 126,000 cases, actives cases stand below 15,000.

Similarly, Delhi’s fatality rate has also improved over the last few weeks. It recorded the highest daily death at 437 on June 16. The daily new deaths stood at 29 on July 22. However, Delhi's fatality rate, which is currently at 2.9%, is little above the national average of 2.4%.

Delhi, with the highest recovery rate

Delhi has been excelling on the recovery front as well. It has one of the country's highest recovery rates at almost 85%, whereas the national recovery rate stands at 63%. Major affected states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu have current recovery rates at 56%, 72%, and 71%, respectively. Since July 7, the number of people recovered has been higher than the number of newly infected cases in Delhi.

The strategy that Clicked for Delhi

Having mentioned Delhi's status with respect to COVID-19, it is time to see what went right. Major credit goes to significantly ramp up its testing facilities in the last few weeks.

Since the third week of June, Delhi has been doing a massive number of tests. It is one of the earliest states where antigen tests started. The testing number per million population in Delhi now stands at 43,978, which is significantly higher than the national testing count of 11,314. Consequently, its positivity rate dramatically declined from a high of 31.7% on June 14 to 7.1% on July 22. It is noteworthy that its positivity rate is lower than the national average and other highly-infected states like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

Delhi is the only major state which has not imposed any kind of lockdown (except containment zones) after the Central government's declaration of unlocking phase on June 1, 2020. The Delhi government clearly ruled out any chances of further lockdowns, which helped the economic cycle run in Delhi. It is also said that the non-imposition of lockdown might have helped Delhi get a certain degree of herd immunity. Though its efficacy is yet to be ascertained scientifically, a recent serological survey suggested that almost 24% of Delhi's population now have COVID-19 antibodies. These people have been asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus and have now been recovered. (Source)

Is Second Wave a Possibility?

It is evident that we are yet to know the virus completely- how it mutates, how it behaves. So, the chances of a second wave in Delhi is always possible with its demography of high migrant population and population density at 11,297. A potent place for the virus to begin a second wave of spread would be the unexposed places- the green zones, containment zones, etc. As people in these places have been indoor for a while now, the lack of herd immunity may lead to another phase of transmission. Also, the risk of fresh infections amongst the elderly and people with co-morbidities is high, as most of these high-risk populations have been indoor.

With a certain degree of uncertainty, the Delhi government has no room for complacency now. The national capital might have won a battle, but the war is still on.

Written by:

Guest Columnist

Amit Parhi

[email protected]indiamacroadvisors.com