India: The Next Coronavirus Hotspot?

The current developments of the coronavirus pandemic have led to some countries leading the pack in new cases while other countries stabilize their numbers. Current front runners for coronavirus cases include The United States, Brazil, Russia and South Africa. Multiple of the front runners in new cases are large regional powers such as Russia and the United States; However, one large regional power has been off the radar until recently. The newest front runner in coronavirus cases to hit the news headlines is India.

India has exploded recently with a rising number of daily confirmed cases. India on July 17th surpassed 30,000 new cases on a single day while also passing the one million registered coronavirus cases milestone; However, according to WHO(World Health Organization) records India has only 27,497 deaths which is remarkable compared to the death numbers in the United States and Brazil. There are multiple reasons as to why the amount of deaths could be lower than other hotspots. According to Yahoo News, “social stigma around the disease has led to people being labelled and discriminated against…[and] it [also] has forced people to hide illness, avoid tests and delay hospitalization” (source: https://news.yahoo.com/india-coronavirus-neighbours-made-us-233055302.html). On top of a social stigma preventing recording of data another reason that death number could be low is that according to  The Washington Post, “a large majority of people die in rural areas and without any medical attention” (source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/india-coronavirus-1-million-cases-death-toll/2020/07/17/9c6aacac-c0a2-11ea-b178-bb7b05b94af1_story.html). Regardless of the actual number of cases the trajectory of India’s corona virus situation is bound to get worse due to India having many dangerous risk factors.

The many risk factors that could propel India’s number of cases are both social and physical in nature. The first main risk factor is that as mentioned before India’s stigmatization of the disease could make it harder for existing infected people to get tested in fear of social retaliation. The stigmatization of the disease makes an already difficult to track disease even harder to fight. Another big risk factor is the fact that rural areas can have less testing or medical attention which can “hide” the virus in statistic sheets released by the government. A third risk factor is that many of the urban population live in dense slums that are not conducive to social distancing. The tight packing of people in urban areas guarantees some community spread inherently since one person in a slum can become a super spreader by just walking to work.

map provided by the New York Times

The map of coronavirus cases in India reveals a dangerous and incomplete picture. Many of the daily cases in India are focused on the districts containing the major cities of the country; However, since many rural districts can lack medical infrastructure the low cases per day in some less developed districts is deceptive. The coronavirus situation will most likely intensify in urban areas and rural areas will be a wild card. If the districts with high amounts of cases can isolate effectively and rural areas remain low in daily cases, the crisis will naturally flatten out over time after the initial spike. If isolation of coronavirus ridden districts cannot be achieved and or rural areas explode in the number of cases in the coming weeks, the crisis could continue to grow for months until the entire country is locked down much like China once was. The incomplete picture of public health in India makes the current case trajectory a menacing omen.

graph provided by https://ourworldindata.org/

The rising amount of daily cases in India looks like it’s heading more into a similar situation as the United States. The rise of daily cases in India has been less erratic as the United States, but at the current rate India could have the same amount of daily coronavirus cases as the US in one to two months. The current situation in the United States has shown the chaos the disease can cause to modern infrastructure if not controlled properly. If a similar situation happened in India, the amount of chaos could be much greater given that India has over 500 million more people than the United States. The Indian government has a chance to either prevent a disaster or create the most dangerous pandemic zone on earth.


Sources: https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus/country/india?country=~IND, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/india-coronavirus-1-million-cases-death-toll/2020/07/17/9c6aacac-c0a2-11ea-b178-bb7b05b94af1_story.html, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/world/asia/india-coronavirus-cases.html, https://news.yahoo.com/india-coronavirus-neighbours-made-us-233055302.html, https://covid19.who.int/region/searo/country/in, https://covid19.who.int/region/amro/country/us, https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/07/17/892275311/india-surpasses-1-million-confirmed-coronavirus-cases?

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