India passes Brazil for the second-most COVID-19 cases in the world

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Photo via Seba Della y Sole Bossio/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Exceeding 4.2 million positive COVID-19 tests, India has passed Brazil as the country with the second-most infections worldwide. A surge in India coronavirus cases allowed the country to overtake Brazil by a landslide when the country recorded more than 90,000 cases on Sept. 7. 

Reuters reported that the number broke the record for the most daily cases recorded by a country in a single day. As of Sept. 7, India reported 5.2 million cases, according to data collected by the New York Times. On Sept. 18, it was reported that India’s daily total jumped by about 96,000.

India now trails the U.S. in reported cases by about 1.4 million, but experts told CBS News that it’s likely that India’s coronavirus cases have actually already surpassed the U.S.  

Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan—director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy (CDDEP)—told CBS News that screened blood samples indicate that COVID-19 has already infected between 20%-30% of the Indian population. 

“This would translate to at least 100 million infections,” Laxminarayan said.

India coronavirus cases are high but deaths are not

The U.S. and Brazil still lead with the most COVID-19 deaths. The U.S. has almost 200,000 deaths, and Brazil has more than 134,000. Despite having the second-highest population worldwide with over 1.35 billion citizens, India has recorded about 84,000 deaths

The Indian government attributes its low death count to a high-quality approach to testing, tracking, and treating, according to a tweet from India’s Ministry of Health. 

“India’s comprehensive and calibrated actions within the umbrella strategy of ‘test, track, treat,’ have resulted in a low mortality rate,” the Ministry of Health wrote. “Sustained efforts through early diagnosis, & timely and effective treatment continue to steadily push the CFR (Case Fatality Rate) down.”  

However, NPR said deaths might be merely undercounted because only about one in five deaths in India are medically certified. 

Although the country has been tallying almost 1,000 new deaths a day in the first week of September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to reopen the economy. Reuters reported the government resumed underground train services and announced that the major tourist attraction, the Taj Mahal, plans to reopen in September. 

Initially, India touted one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. But then the country’s GDP for the first quarter in 2020 shrank 23.9% on the year, according to CBS News, and India’s economy became the hardest hit in the world. 

According to the New York Times, Modi subsequently began reopening the economy in May, believing that the nation should just accept the risks of a surge in COVID-19 to salvage the economy. 

At the end of May, India’s seven-day average of new cases was more than 8,000. Now, the seven-day average is more than 83,000. 

Sources: Reuters, New York Times, NPR, CBS News, MOHFW

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