India’s burgeoning coronavirus cases have overtaken China’s tally, making it the latest nation with the dubious distinction of having more infections than the country where the pandemic began.
India saw 3,787 new infections on Friday, bringing its total to 85,784, surpassing China’s 84,038 cases. The world’s second-most populous nation now has the 11th-biggest outbreak, according to data compiled by John Hopkins University.
The surge underscores the limited impact of the countrywide lockdown imposed on March 25 to curb the highly infectious pathogen. Nearly two months into the world’s most expansive stay-at-home orders, India has not seen its virus curve flattening like Italy or Spain where new cases had begun trending downward sooner. China too managed to contain its outbreak by locking down Hubei, the province where the pathogen first emerged.
India’s rate of daily new infections is still rising despite confining virtually all its 1.3 billion citizens to their homes as many live in highly congested neighborhoods which makes social distancing impossible. Even among India’s middle-class families, four or more often share a one-bedroom apartment in cities. In Mumbai’s slums, as many as seven people live in one room while the whole neighborhood may be sharing a toilet complex.
As the economic costs of the lockdown mount, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has begun easing containment measures in some parts of the country which risks spurring fresh cases as more people interact and move about.
With the outbreak yet to peak, the central and state governments have been creating hundreds of thousands of isolation beds for infected people and tens of thousands of critical care beds for the severely ill.
This has helped India’s fragile health care system stay ahead of the virus: its death count at 2,753 is lower than China’s 4,637 casualties. But much lower testing rates have led many experts to suspect India may be under-counting its virus cases.