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Early signs of disaster? Rapid spike in Covid R number from June to end Hints at Fresh Spurt

A research scientist works on production of RT-PCR kits that are used to detect Mucormycosis, also known as black fungus, during the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, inside a laboratory of GCC Biotech on the outskirts of Kolkata. (Reuters)

The R number, or effective transmission rate, has risen rapidly for the first time since the peak of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in India, raising concerns among medical professionals.

The portability rate, which declined steadily until the last week of June, has seen a sudden spike between June 20 and July 7 as the country witnesses massive crowds at multiple tourist and religious sites.

The latest data on Covid’s R-value shows that it increased from 0.78 to 0.88 between May 15 and June 26. The analysis, led by Sitabhra Sinha of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai, indicates that the decline in active cases is slowing, the Indian Express reported.

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“R is defined in terms of the growth or decline of active cases. The decline in the number of active cases has slowed down significantly in recent days and that is also reflected in R’s estimate,” Sinha told the I.E.

This means that each group of 100 infected people now, on average, passes the infection on to another set of 88 people, instead of a group of 78 previously.

What is R number?

The R number is a way of assessing the spreading potential of the coronavirus or a communicable disease. It is the number of people to whom one infected person transmits a virus on average.

If the R-value is higher than one, the number of cases continues to increase. However, if it’s lower, the disease will eventually stop spreading because not enough new people are infected to keep the outbreak going.

States with R-value One

To some extent, with the exception of Kerala and Maharashtra, states have so far reported an R-value of less than one.

In Kerala, the state that contributes nearly a third of all new cases to the country’s caseload, the R number is currently estimated to be around 1.1. Maharashtra also has an estimated R-value of around 1, according to the analysis.

On Friday, the head of the Covid task force UK Paul had said the country is far from reaching the baseline of the decline, which should be around 10,000 cases per day, up from the current 40,000 reported infections per day.

“This is a warning to us that we need to effectively help the process of regression of this wave to a level much lower than the baseline. The baseline has not yet been reached. The baseline would be slightly below 10,000. This should take at least three weeks. Over 35,000 cases per day is not a small number… It seems small compared to the high peak we experienced, but the fact that the decline is somewhat slow tells us that if we don’t work hard to control the virus, it may take over,” he said.

Meanwhile, Delhi and Mumbai have seen a huge turnaround. While 85% of hospital beds previously reserved for Covid-19 patients are now empty, the positivity rate in Delhi has fallen below one percent and one death was reported.

The national capital registered 76 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, while the city’s positivity rate fell to 0.09 percent. The positivity rate for Covid-19 had fallen to 0.11 percent on Friday, from 0.12 percent the day before.

Mumbai reported 600 new cases and 13 deaths on Friday; Thursday, 540 infections and 13 deaths were reported.

The numbers are encouraging as, at one point, the country’s national and financial capital both broke records for the highest number of reported coronavirus infections in a single day. These numbers were higher than those recorded even during the first wave last year.

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