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India's Covid-19 cases hits 1m as virus spreads to villages

India's Covid-19 cases hits 1m as virus spreads to villages

By Charles Joseph

July 17, 2020 - With cases now spreading in remove villages, India on Friday became the third country with its coronavirus cases hitting one million, joining the Unites States and Brazil.

However, with a population of over 1.3 billion, experts say that India's cases are still low, adding that the number will rise significantly in the coming months with testing capacity expanding.

That compares to some 3.6 million cases in the U.S. and two million in Brazil – both countries with populations under 400 million.

India on Friday recorded 34,956 new infections, taking the total so far to 1.004 million, with 25,602 deaths from COVID-19, Federal Health Ministry data showed.

Epidemiologists say India is still likely months away from hitting its peak of cases, suggesting the country’s already overburdened healthcare system will come under further strain.

“In the coming months, we are bound to see more and more cases, and that is the natural progression of any pandemic,’’ said Giridhar Babu, epidemiologist at the non-profit Public Health Foundation of India.

“As we move forward, the goal has to be lower mortality… a critical challenge states will face is how to rationally allocate hospital beds,’’ he said.

The last four months of the pandemic sweeping India have exposed severe gaps in the country’s healthcare system, which is one of the most poorly funded and has for years lacked enough doctors or hospital beds.

The Indian government has defended a strict lockdown it imposed in March to contain the virus spread, saying it helped keep death rates low and allowed time to beef up the healthcare infrastructure.

But public health experts say shortages remain, and could hit hard in the coming months.

“As a public health measure, I don’t think the lockdown had much impact.

“It just delayed the virus spread,’’ said Dr Kapil Yadav, Assistant Professor of Community Medicine at New Delhi’s Premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

The million cases so far recorded likely left out many asymptomatic ones, he said.

“It’s a gross underestimate.’’

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