COVID-19 pandemic: India death toll in 9 months is 7 times what swine flu killed in a decade

India crosses five million mark in confirmed COVID-19 cases

By Richard Mahapatra
Last Updated: Tuesday 15 September 2020
COVID-19’s India toll in 9 months is six times more than the last pandemic’s for over a decade. Photo: Vikas Choudhary / CSE

On September 15, 2020, India’s novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases crossed five million. This may not exactly be a milestone to observe in a pandemic. However, the way India reached this point is a revelation on our state of preparedness and strategy to fight the pandemic.

India is now the world’s second-worst impacted country, after the United States, with five million cases. It presently accounts for 17 per cent of the world’s total 29 million COVID-19 infected population. Nearly 80,000 people have died due to the infection in India, whereas the global death toll is 922,252.

There has not been a single day from July 30 through September 15 that India did not reported above 50,000 new cases a day.

It can be termed as the pandemic’s exponential phase for India. In the week starting September 6, the country reported above 80,000 cases per day and for four consecutive days, its tally was above 90,000 cases per day.

By January-end, India had just five confirmed cases of COVID-19. There was no official conversation on an impending pandemic and the country had just started talking about restricting air travel from China. But from here to reaching the five million cases in 227 days makes India one of the countries to have witnessed a very fast infection rate, like the US.

Similarly, from the week starting June 8, India has reported more than 100,000 cases per week. From mid-August, the country has been reporting above half a million cases.

By far, COVID-19 is the deadliest pandemic of the 21st century; the last pandemic, caused by the H1N1 (swine flu) virus, hit the world in 2009 and is known as the swine flu pandemic. It killed more than 285,000 people worldwide before morphing into a seasonal flu. It means that even though the world no longer talks about the disease, its onslaught continues.

In India, the last pandemic killed 1,833 while affecting 36,240 at its peak in 2009-2010. It continues to infect and kill Indians. During 2012-2019, it has affected 138,394 people while killing 9,150.

In the first two months of 2020, 1,100 were infected and 18 died, according to the most recent data from the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme under the National Centre for Disease Control.

Epicentres, meanwhile, have varied: From Delhi, Maharashtra and Rajasthan in 2009 to Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh in 2017, back to Rajasthan, Delhi as well as Gujarat in 2019.

In total, the swine flu pandemic killed some 11,600 people since the outbreak in 2009, in over 10 years. COVID-19, thus, has already killed over 600 per cent of the last pandemic and in just nine months.

Even in comparison to other general diseases / infections that kill people in India, the COVID-19 pandemic toll has surpassed records. For instance, the COVID-19 infection number is higher than the total cases of malaria in the last six years in India.

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