On Friday, India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare announced that it has recorded more than 2,027,000 confirmed cases, including 41,585 deaths.
The rising caseload sees India become only the third country to report more than 2 million cases, behind the United States — which has seen nearly 4.9 million cases — and Brazil, which has recorded more than 2.9 million, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University (JHU).
India’s infection rate has increased exponentially in recent weeks. It took almost six months for the country to record 1 million cases, another 12 days to reach 1.5 million, and only another nine days to hit 2 million.
After initially appearing to have curbed the spread of the virus, India, the world’s second most populous nation, has struggled to cope with the fast-expanding outbreak.
Across the country, critically ill virus patients have been turned away from public and private hospitals for lack of beds, staff and equipment. Earlier this month, a minister died of the virus while two Indian cabinet ministers checked into hospital after testing positive.
The virus has also hit celebrities, including Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan, one of India’s most famous actors. The 77-year-old announced Sunday that he has been discharged from hospital after a three-week stay.
But India’s health authorities have said that part of the reason for the soaring cases is an increase in testing.
Since July 29, when India’s caseload passed 1.5 million, the country has carried out an estimated 5 million tests, bringing its total number of tests to 22.7 million as of Thursday, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research. And according to health authorities, around 68% of the confirmed cases have now recovered.
In India, not all patients require a test to be considered recovered. Patients with mild and moderate symptoms are considered no longer active after 10 days of symptom onset if they meet certain conditions, and a test to confirm that they no longer have the virus is not required. However, severe cases can only be discharged after one negative coronavirus test.
Compared with other countries, India’s mortality rate remains low. According to JHU data, India has around three deaths per 100,000, compared with almost 67 deaths per 100,000 in the United Kingdom, which has the highest mortality rate of the top 20 most affected countries.
Although India now has one of the world’s largest known outbreaks, it took relatively swift steps against coronavirus during the first phases of the pandemic.
In March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a “complete” lockdown for India’s 1.3 billion people, making it the largest lockdown in the world.
While these measures have been progressively eased over the last few months, some hard-hit parts of the country are still under strict coronavirus restrictions.
The country’s move to a lockdown likely helped lessen the impact of the outbreak, experts have suggested. But the lockdown also underscored India’s inequality, especially in urban areas.
After India announced its nationwide lockdown, millions of daily-wage earners living in cities found themselves out of work. Some opted to travel thousands of miles back home to their families in other parts of the country.
And for the around 74 million people living in India’s overcrowded slums, social distancing was impossible. A study last month found that more than half of residents living in Mumbai’s crowded slums may have contracted coronavirus, meaning they were likely being infected at a much higher rate than those not living in slum areas.