India's Covid cases surge after weeks of decline

Monday's daily death toll stood at 214 while infection surged by 35 per cent week-on-week

People queue for a Covid-19 vaccine in Gauhati, India. AP
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India on Monday recorded a fresh spurt in the number of Covid-19 cases as New Delhi and the World Health Organisation clashed over methods of revising the country’s pandemic death toll.

The Indian Health Ministry said 2,183 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours, almost double the number from Sunday’s count when 1,150 were confirmed.

The death toll on Monday stood at 214, with southern Kerala state adding 213 backlog fatalities.

The country’s caseload surged last week by about 35 per cent against the previous seven-day count, sparking fresh concerns about the spread of the virus after a sharp decline in the past 11 weeks.

Health Ministry data showed more than 6,610 fresh cases were reported in the last week, up from 4,900 the previous week.

States such as Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have witnessed a sharp increase in infections.

The national capital on Sunday reported 517 cases, up from an average of 200 cases in the previous weeks.

The city’s positivity rate exceeded the 5 per cent mark, which might convinced the government to reimpose coronavirus restrictions.

Last month, Delhi and many other states relaxed pandemic measures and made masks voluntary as daily infection cases fell to fewer than 900.

Many experts have blamed the pandemic relaxations for the surge but the number of hospital admissions remains low.

"There is no need to worry. Any rise in cases ... this is an RNA virus and mutations are bound to happen. We must move to normalcy," Dr Sanjay K Rai, an epidemiologist at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences, told The National.

In terms of numbers, India is behind only Brazil and the United States, with a total caseload of more than 42 million and 521,965 deaths.

The latest surge comes as India rejected a report by The New York Times claimed that New Delhi was stalling the publication of a World Health Organisation global death revision report.

A girl is inoculated with a dose of the Covaxin vaccine, in New Delhi. AFP

The newspaper last week said the world body estimates 15 million deaths globally, more than double the official death toll of six million reported by individual countries.

Quoting the yet-to-be-released report, The New York Times pegged India’s death toll at about four million, drawing a sharp rebuke from New Delhi.

The Health Ministry questioned the WHO’s methodology on the revised death estimates and accused the US newspaper of singling out India.

“India has shared its concerns with the methodology along with other member states through a series of formal communications,” a ministry statement said.

Officials questioned how "the statistical model projects estimates" for a country of India's size and population and how this "fits in with other countries which have a smaller population”.

The ministry said New Delhi had not received a “satisfactory response” from the WHO and voiced its surprise that The New York Times apparently focused on India’s excessive death toll.

“It is very surprising that while The New York Times purportedly could obtain the alleged figures of excess Covid-19 mortality in respect to India, it was 'unable to learn the estimates for other countries,'" the statement said.

Updated: April 18, 2022, 12:14 PM