India’s confirmed coronavirus cases crossed the three million mark Sunday with nearly 70,000 new infections, as the disease continues to surge in the world’s second-most-populous nation.
The health ministry said 69,239 cases were detected on Sunday, with 912 deaths taking the total number of fatalities to 56,706.
Many experts say, however, that the real scale of the infection is much higher.
Authorities in New Delhi said last week that an antibody study in the megacity suggested more than a quarter of the capital’s population had contracted the infection.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in late March that has been mostly eased in recent weeks.
India had one of the world's strictest lockdowns. Why are cases still rising? | Rukmini S https://t.co/snPNzmOchX
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But the epidemic has left Asia’s third-largest economy reeling, and tens of millions of people have lost their jobs and livelihoods.
However, other countries in South Asia seem to be on a different trajectory, with confirmed infections showing what seems to be a downward trend, after steep increases in May and June.
In Pakistan, with the second-highest number of total cases in the region, there is cautious optimism after cases fell from a peak in mid-June of almost 6,000 new infections each day, to less than 1,000 by August.
And Bangladesh, which had a total of 279,144 cases as of 17 August, saw its daily cases peak between mid-June before they dropped in the last week of July and beginning of August.
There were concerns about a possible rise in infections after Eid celebrations in Pakistan and Bangladesh at the end of July.
While there seems to be one happening in Bangladesh, Pakistan’s infections have continued to decline.
Afghanistan’s numbers have been falling after a spike in mid-June, although there are questions about the reliability of its official figures.
A recent survey conducted by their health ministry showed that more than a third of the country’s population could have been infected.
In Nepal, the government imposed a lockdown which went on for 100 days, during which time most cases were in areas bordering India. It’s imposed new local restrictions in several provinces, as infections have been going up in some densely-populated urban areas.
Sri Lanka has much lower levels of infection. It has had spikes in cases since April, but has had relatively low numbers. It has implemented a tight lockdown, traced contacts of positive cases and imposed strict quarantine rules.
“A thorough contact-tracing system was in place using public health officers, local police, intelligence officials and local administrative officials,” says BBC Sinhala’s Saroj Pathirana.
Coronavirus numbers in India greater than it’s neighbors
South Asia has about a quarter of the world population, but only 15% of total recorded infections are from this region.
“A total number of cases per million in India and the rest of South Asia are low, but so is the number of tests per million,” says virologist Dr Shahid Jameel.
He says that while total numbers of tests in these countries seem high, they are not when you factor in population sizes.
India has so far conducted 30 million tests. Pakistan has carried out more than 2.2 million.
Individual states and cities have imposed localised lockdowns — including Haryana and Punjab, where cases have spiked in recent weeks.
Previously the main hotspots have been the teeming megacities of New Delhi and Mumbai, home to some of the world’s biggest slums.
“At the moment we are seeing a fairly sharp rise in cases overall for India,” said K Srinath Reddy, of the non-governmental Public Health Foundation of India.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk