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Lockdowns have worked in most states but there are exceptions

State governments have been increasingly using lockdowns as a way to control the spread of covid-19 cases, even as their healthcare capacity struggles to keep pace. How effective have lockdowns been? In general, states that have had longer, and more severe, lockdowns have seen larger drops in total positivity rates–share of positive tests as a percentage of total tests done. But there are important exceptions.

Based on the length of their lockdowns, major states (with highest caseloads) can be divided into three sets: above 20 days, 10-20 days and below 10 days. In the first set (above 20 days), Maharashtra, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh have lowered their positivity rates by 7.3-8.3 percentage points. The fourth state, Punjab, which has resisted introducing a full lockdown, has seen its positivity rate increase.

Similarly, in the second set (10-20 days), Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal lowered their positivity rates, while Karnataka’s shot up from 18.8% to 31.8% during the period. In the third set (below 10 days), positivity rates of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Tamil Nadu have increased, underscoring that it takes time for the effects of lockdowns to kick in. Rajasthan, which imposed a strict lockdown on 10 May, saw positivity rates decline, but it had a long stretch of partial lockdown prior to that. While part of the variance is explained by the intensity of restrictions, and also its adherence, the capacity to test, trace and isolate also seems to be playing a part. Maharashtra for example had decentralised control rooms, improved communication, and was strict with restrictions in hotspots such as Mumbai and Pune.

Rising Deaths

For the third consecutive week, Jharkhand reported the highest percentage growth in covid deaths. But the growth rate fell to 31% from last week’s 54%. At 3,484 deaths this week, Karnataka has reported 3 times of what it did a fortnight ago. Udupi district, which reported 6 deaths from January till April, has reported 46 deaths in the last two weeks.

Similarly, Haryana, which reported 359 deaths two weeks back, has seen a sharp increase, with Palwal and Rohtak reporting a 5-fold and 6-fold jump in reported deaths this week. Mahendragarh, which had only 22 deaths from the start of the pandemic till April has reported 56 deaths already this month. Among states with the highest caseloads, Maharashtra and Delhi are now seeing a sustained decline in fatalities, while Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are seeing their death curves rising.

Vaccine Bottleneck

Meanwhile, most states are yet to start inoculating those in the 18-44 age group, owing to covid-19 vaccine shortages. India averaged 2.1 million doses per day this week, 16% higher than the previous week, but still significantly lower than the 2.5 million doses two weeks ago. Among major states, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala continue to lead in vaccines per capita: 283 and 228 doses per 1,000 people respectively.

On a per capita basis, Delhi and Uttarakhand, have vaccinated 36 out of 1,000 people and 29 out of 1000, respectively in the last seven days. However, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh have struggled to maintain pace. Amidst domestic supply constraints, several state governments are planning to float global tenders to procure covid vaccines from overseas.

Marginal Improvement

The number of doses per capita given by India increased marginally to 12.6 in the past week–sixth among the top 10 most-populous countries. Its weekly growth in the number of doses given per 100 people increased from 6.5% last week to 10.2% this week, according to data portal Our World in Data. At 30%, Japan continues to register the fastest growth, but on a low base.

China continues to lead in cumulative vaccine doses given. It has administered more doses than all countries in Europe. India maintained its third position on that metric, behind the US. As the second wave of the coronavirus wrecks havoc in the country, vaccine supply becomes even more critical. Bharat Biotech has said it will ramp up 10 million monthly production of Covaxin to 33 million in July, and to 78 million in August. Such expansions, and the speed and size of state tenders, will play a critical role in the months ahead.

(howindialives.com is a database and search engine for public data)

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