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Infection rates are falling in India, but there is no room for complacency – editorials

In the past week, India has, on average, reported 292 new Covid-19 deaths every day, and 21,072 new infections daily — both the lowest in around half a year. Since the peak of India’s first wave in mid-September, both these numbers have dropped nearly 80%. Also in the last week, the positivity rate — the proportions of samples tested that return positive for Sars-CoV2 — is at the lowest ever. This is a key metric key in determining how widespread the virus is in a community. According to the World Health Organization, if the positivity rate remains five per cent or below for two weeks, a region can be said to be keeping its outbreak under control. India’s positivity rate has been below this threshold for 45 days now — a remarkable feat for a country of this size.

On the other hand, the grand exercise to vaccinate more than 300 million people by summer appears to be only days away with drug regulators expected to soon take a decision on emergency approvals for vaccines. On Monday, officials in four states carried out vaccination drills, testing arrangements for the first phase of the drive. The calm waters that India’s outbreak is in right now should not be taken as a sign that the tide has turned in the battle against the disease. States are tracking down passengers who have recently returned from the United Kingdom (UK), where a new and more transmissible virus variant has been discovered.

On Monday, it emerged that some of them have tested positive for the variant. This serves as a warning sign to not let the guard down. Even if 300 million people are vaccinated by summer in India, it would mean that 75% of the country’s population remains vulnerable.

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