While the Indian variant continues to dominate the headlines, India itself seems to have dropped out of the news a bit. What is going on there?
It was reported yesterday that India notched up a record number of Covid deaths on Tuesday – 4525 – which indeed was the record of any country during the pandemic. However, that number needs to be put in the context of the country’s population of 1.3 billion. Grim as it is, it works out at 3.5 deaths per million. This is a fraction of the 27.6 deaths per million recorded in Britain on 20 January 2021.
Tuesday’s figure is also likely to be the high tide mark in India’s second wave of Covid. New infections in India have now been falling for a fortnight. They peaked at 412,618 on 5 May. Exactly two weeks later (yesterday) they had fallen to 287,156. Again, to put this in context, it works out at 317 cases per million Indian inhabitants. By contrast, Britain recorded 68,053, or 1031 cases per million, on 8 January. This turned out to be the peak of the second wave.
Of course, caution has to be applied to comparing statistics between countries, as different recording standards often apply. How many cases a country records is highly dependent on how much testing is done.
There are also different ways of counting deaths. Anecdotal evidence from India’s first wave last summer suggested Covid was not being recorded on death certificates, in spite of the individual having shown symptoms. In some places, if patients were not tested, their death would not be recorded as Covid-related. But it is impossible to quantify any extent of under-counting.