Numbers Matter | Covid: What the fall in hospitalisations in Mumbai, Delhi means
While the drop in cases may be because of low testing levels, or people using home test kits, a drop in hospitalisation is a crucial metric that reflects the on-the-ground situation
In the five days leading to January 13, Delhi reported 20,181, 22,751, 19,166, 21259, and 27,561 new infections of Covid-19. On January 13, the city set an all-time record with 28,867 new cases. In the five days that followed, however, new cases have dropped every single day – there were 24,383 new infections on January 14, 20,718 cases on January 15, 18,286 on January 16, 12,527 on January 17 and finally 11,684 on January 18.
This apparent reversal of trend is not exclusive to Delhi. In Mumbai, this was apparent a few days before it was in the national capital. In the four days leading to January 7 (when daily cases peaked with 20,971), there were 7,928, 10,606, 15,014 and 20,181 new infections reported in Mumbai. And in the four days that followed, daily cases were 20,318, 19,474, 13,648, and 11,647. Since then, this number has only continued to shrink – on Tuesday, there were only 6,149 new cases in the city.
It is a good sign that the earliest outbreak centres in the country are exhibiting signs of recovery from the Omicron waves. But, doctors and health experts repeatedly warned that the numbers on the ground may be higher as a lot of people have resorted to using home test kits due to milder symptoms occurring with the Omicron variant, and do not necessarily follow up with an RT-PCR test if they are positive, thereby staying off the radar. There is, however, no way to map these cases since most mild patients are recovering while at home in isolation.
However, the best news yet is that hospitalisations have started dropping in both Mumbai as well as Delhi, according to a tally HT has been running to track hospitalisation rates in India’s regions that publish this data.
On January 10, for instance, 24.1% of hospital beds earmarked for Covid patients in Mumbai were occupied – 8,502 of 35,266 beds were occupied as per data released by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). By January 18, the bed occupancy number has dropped to 16.1% in the city.
In Delhi, meanwhile, the number of patients hospitalised with Covid dropped for the first time (since the start of the Omicron wave) on Tuesday. And because the city’s peak took place around a week or so after Mumbai, this number is only likely to improve in the coming days.
While arguments can be made that the drop in cases may or may not be because of low levels of testing, or people using home test kits which may not be followed up with RT-PCR tests, a drop in hospitalisation (especially when they never rose alarmingly high in the current wave, to begin with) is a crucial metric that reflects the on-the-ground situation. If more people were still getting sicker on the ground, then hospital beds would not be getting more abundant at this rate.
And while a similar trend is yet to be exhibited on the national level, there are early glimmers that the alarming growth rate witnessed by the Omicron wave is now coming down.
In the week ended January 8, there were 90,524 new infections of Covid-19 reported every day on average across India. In the seven days leading to January 1, exactly a week before it, the national seven-day average of daily cases was 14,418. It means that in just a week, the rate of new infections has increased by 528% (see chart below). This is the largest ever weekly growth seen in the country, dwarfing even the peak growth rate seen during the brutal second wave, when the number peaked at 70%.
In the past 10 days, however, this week-on-week growth rate in average daily infections has been dropping rapidly. For the week ended January 18, there were 261,793 new cases of Covid-19 detected across India every single day on average – 75% more than the number in the week leading to January 11, when there were 149,843.
To be sure, even after the so-called “decline” in the growth of daily cases, the current growth rate is still more than the highest levels recorded even during the worst of the Delta wave – indicating that there is still time to go before the rise in daily infections begins plateauing, at least at the national level.