India’s Covid-19 Death Toll Surpasses 1 Lakh

India’s death rate has been higher than U.S. and Brazil’s over the past few weeks. 

 People gather next to a taxi stand outside Howrah railway station in Kolkata, India. (Photographer: Arko Datto/Bloomberg)
People gather next to a taxi stand outside Howrah railway station in Kolkata, India. (Photographer: Arko Datto/Bloomberg)

Coronavirus has now killed more than 1 lakh people in India and is taking more lives each day than anywhere else in the world as the pandemic continues unabated.

The grim milestone comes as India reported 1,069 deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the total toll to 1,00,842 in the world’s second-worst affected nation, according to Health Ministry data as of 8:00 a.m. on Saturday.

The total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 has now crossed 64,73,544. But healthcare experts expect that number to be much higher. A nationwide serological survey showed that one in 15 Indians has been exposed to the new coronavirus.

The world’s second-most populous nation which reported its first case of the pathogen nearly eight months ago, on Jan. 30, accounts for about 10% of global coronavirus deaths.

In the last one month alone, India added 27 lakh fresh Covid-19 cases and about 35,304 deaths.

An average of 1,000 deaths have been reported each day over the last week, ahead of the U.S. and Brazil’s average of 700, a sign that the virus is spreading faster in India. In overall deaths, India is behind the two countries.

Yet, deaths per 100,000 people is one of the lowest in India among the largest outbreaks, including the U.S., Russia, Italy, Mexico, Brazil and others, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

India has also been able to lower its mortality rate from 3.4% in May to around 1.5%. Something that the Narendra Modi-led government touts as a sign of success and control over the pandemic.

Mortality has come down in hospitalised cases, Dr. Jayaprakash Muliyil, one of India's leading epidemiologists, said. But he said more data is needed to assess the situation.

“For example in Europe, every death is recorded and put up in a website and people can access, study it and look at the pattern," Dr. Muliyil said. "That is not so in India. We don't see all the death, we only see the reported death which is definitely a fraction.”

Prabhat Jha, professor of global health and epidemiology at Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, said there is no clear evidence that India has been able to manage its cases as the death rate among the seriously sick, hospitalised, ventilated patients is high.

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How Indian States Fare

Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Maharashtra accounted for a large share of the virus load in the country in the first few months of the outbreak. Now, newer hotspots continue to emerge as virus move from large towns to villages.

While India’s overall mortality rate is about 1.5%, it's higher in Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu. Similarly, deaths per million population in many other states is also higher than the national average.

Maharashtra’s and Delhi’s deaths per million population is nearly four times the country’s overall number. Maharashtra continues to report 300 deaths per million people, followed by Delhi at around 288.

According to a study, 'Epidemiology and Transmission Dynamics of Covid-19' in two Indian states—Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu—children and young adults were especially key to transmitting the virus in the studied populations.

The report found that coronavirus-related deaths in India occurred, on average, six days after hospitalisation compared to an average of 13 days in the U.S.