India's Covid-19 death toll crosses 1-lakh mark

India's Covid-19 death toll crosses 1-lakh mark; experts say national peak was seen in September

Representative image. Credit: AFP.

India’s Covid-19 death toll on Friday crossed the 1,00,000 mark, making it the third country in the world to climb such a peak of ignominy.

More than 33,000 of these deaths – or one-third of the total Covid-19 deaths - occurred in September, making it the deadliest month since the first Covid-19 infection was reported in a Kerala student on the last day of January.

Barring a lone exception, the epidemic killed more than 1,000 Indians on each day of September. The month also recorded in excess of 26 lakh infections, accounting for 41% of 64 lakh Covid-19 cases.

But in what may be a silver lining, several experts pointed out that India might have witnessed its first national-level peak around September 14-16, following which epidemic curve moved south.

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The declining trajectory is seen in the charts available on the website of the National Institute of Epidemiology, Chennai – one of the ICMR laboratories.

The seven-day average of daily cases detected has fallen from the highest-yet of 93,199 on September 16 to 82,214 on October 1, a decline not observed since the epidemic’s beginning.

“Our country level epidemic has already peaked in the third week of September. The stage of the healthcare system getting overwhelmed is over,” T Jacob John, an eminent virologist and former professor at the Christian Medical College, Vellore told DH.

“However, hidden within the country-level epidemic curve are many many epidemics in local areas where the peak may not have been reached,” he cautioned.

A downward movement in the epidemic curve does not mean an end to the cases and deaths, which will continue to pile up.

USA and Brazil are the only two nations with a toll higher than India even though the Asian giant has overtaken the Latin American nation in the total cases and the gap between India and USA is narrowing with each passing day.

“Each death is unfortunate and has a devastating effect on families. Majority of the deaths have occurred in the period when the country witnessed a surge in cases. Some of these deaths were preventable in which early care couldn’t be provided due to issues with access to health facilities and delayed identification,” said Giridhar R Babu, an epidemiologist at the Public Health Foundation of India.

While going by the case fatality rate, India’s has one of the world’s lowest death rate, the numbers are sobering in absolute terms.

“The increase in deaths in recent months also indicates that while the case fatality ratio remains low, individuals are still at risk of death as an outcome. Doing everything possible to stay safe is important,” said Oommen John, a public health specialist at the George Institute for Global Health, Delhi.

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