Since the start of the Omicron rise in late December, this is the first time a trend reversal has been seen.
The third wave of Covid-19 infections in India appears to be waning, with new cases at the national level declining during the past week — the first time a trend reversal has been seen since the Omicron outbreak began in late December.
If these trends continue, experts say it will be a critical development because the third wave’s onslaught has been marked by a significantly lower proportion of hospitalizations and deaths than the country’s first and second waves – a pattern consistent with global waves caused by the Omicron variant of Sars-Cov-2.
According to HT’s Covid-19 dashboard, there were 233,779 new instances recorded on Friday, the lowest number in 17 days. Since January 20, when there were about 350,000 daily infections — the biggest single-day figure thus far in the third wave – daily infections have practically fallen every single day, barring a tiny rise on Tuesday.
For the week ending Tuesday, India’s seven-day average of daily infections (a statistic that depicts a region’s case curve) surged to 312,180 cases per day, the highest thus far in this wave. This figure has now fallen to 279,100 for the week ending Friday, a decline of about 10%. While this decrease is slight, it is the first time since the third wave began in the final week of December 2021 that the seven-day average of instances has begun to decline.
While daily case tally changes are normal, especially on weekends and holidays like Republic Day, other statistical elements such as the test positivity rate — the proportion of samples tested that return positive for Covid-19 – appear to corroborate the notion for a plateau. The national daily positivity rate, which peaked at 20.9 percent on January 23, has remained below that level on the days afterwards — on Wednesday, it was 18 percent, and on Thursday, it was 15.8 percent.
The downward trend in daily instances becomes much more apparent at the state level. According to data analysed by HT, cases in the third wave appear to have reached a plateau and have decreased in varied degrees across 29 of India’s 36 states and union territories for the week ending Thursday. A total of 16 states and UTs have had their population decline by more than 20% from previous highs.
West Bengal has seen the largest drop (in relation to the third wave high). The state’s seven-day average of new cases peaked at 17,523 for the week ending January 15, but has since declined by 72 percent to 6,135 for the week ending Thursday.
In Delhi, where the infection rate peaked at 23,529 cases per day for the week ending January 15, the rate has plummeted by 67 percent to 7,857 average infections per day for the week ending Thursday, the country’s second largest decline.
Jharkhand and Bihar were next, with cases dropping 62 percent and 61 percent respectively from third wave high, according to data.
To be clear, even if the third wave looks to be fading in most parts of the country, this is not the case in every state. According to research, the surge is still increasing across most of south India and the north-east. According to statistics analysed by HT, the case trajectory is currently at its greatest point in the third wave (and continuing growing) in at least seven regions. Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, and Ladakh are the states in question. Meanwhile, only mild recessions have occurred in Telangana, Meghalaya, Manipur, Jammu & Kashmir, and Karnataka (under 3 percent ).
Sutra — a mathematical model built at IIT Kanpur and IIT Hyderabad to forecast a high in Covid-19 cases – predicted a nationwide peak around the latter week of January, which looks to be accurate.
“We projected a high around January 23, and we’re currently seeing a peak on January 25, so we do believe the worst of this wave is over… especially in regions like Mumbai and Delhi,” M Vidyasagar, SERB national chair, IIT- Hyderabad, and member of the Sutra consortium, said. “An important element to remember is that we had to analyse the figures from South Africa when we first started our estimates.” Because our objective was to assist the government in preparing for the worst-case scenario, we had to be more gloomy with our projections. So there were some circumstances in which we expected the number of cases would be significantly greater, but we’ve either avoided those or a large number of mild or asymptomatic instances have gone undetected.