Data | To reduce coronavirus spread, India needs to test more, lockdown notwithstanding

As witnessed in countries which imposed strict restrictions but saw a surge in cases later, a nation-wide lockdown may not be enough in India

Updated - March 30, 2020 02:16 am IST

Published - March 30, 2020 01:08 am IST

Photo for representation. Migrant workers along with their family members set forth to their their villages on foot, at Lal Quarter Bus Stand in New Delhi, on March 29, 2020.

Photo for representation. Migrant workers along with their family members set forth to their their villages on foot, at Lal Quarter Bus Stand in New Delhi, on March 29, 2020.

In India, the growth of COVID-19 cases has neither been exponential nor has it flattened out. The curve lies somewhere in the middle. But this picture is misleading as India has a poor testing rate .

Despite the fact that India has among the lowest % of positive cases of those tested, the 21-day lockdown, which began on March 25, may not be enough . This is borne out in countries which imposed lockdowns but saw a surge in cases later.

The three curves

The graph shows the day-wise progression of COVID-19 cases since the 100th case in each country. Some countries such as Singapore, Japan and South Korea have managed to flatten the curve.

Also read: Interview | ‘Trace, test, treat’ mantra helped us control coronavirus, says South Korean Ambassador to India Shin Bong-Kil

Many such as the U.S., the U.K., Spain and Italy are seeing an exponential rise in cases.

The rest such as India, Indonesia, Peru, Iceland, Finland and Saudi Arabia are middling.

Types of case progression

image/svg+xml2468101214161820222426283032343638Days since the 100th caseCountry and trajectoryColourNullGreenRedYellowExponential riseMiddling countries200,00050,00010,0002,000500100U.S.ItalyChinaIranDays since the 100th caseCasesFranceU.K.IndiaFinlandHong KongJapanSingaporeSouth KoreaFlattened the curve2163038

A unique position

When a sample of countries experiencing the three types of progression (exponential, middling and flattening) are compared for tests done per million population and % of positive cases among those tested, India is in a unique position.

Also read: Data | Where does India stand on the coronavirus curve?

India has conducted a limited number of tests and at the same time, it also has a very low % of positive cases among those tested.

Tests per million x positive samples

image/svg+xml101001,00010,000125102050MedianMedianHigher test rates,lower % of positive casesIndia is one of the fewcountries in this quadrantHigher test rates, higher% of positive casesLower test rates, higher% of positive casesLower test rates, lower% of positive casesTests per million population% positive cases among samples testedIndiaJapanFranceU.S.IcelandAustraliaSouth KoreaQatarFinlandBelgiumRomaniaU.K.PeruSaudi ArabiaIndonesiaPhilippines

Is a lockdown enough?

Countries such as South Korea chose not to impose a lockdown but instead reduce the spread by ramping up testing rates early. Others who did not increase their testing rates early chose to impose a lockdown in order to contain the spread.

While Belgium, like India, imposed a lockdown early, the infections continued to increase as testing rates increased.

Impact of a lockdown

image/svg+xmlNationCases onlockdowndayCases onMarch 29India6241,119Belgium1,24310,836France6,63338,105U.K.8,07719,758Italy10,14992,472

Italy imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 10, while France brought forth the same on March 16. Belgium's lockdown began on March 17, and similar restrictions in U.K. came into effect on March 24.

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