On Monday, India reported over 1.79 lakh fresh Covid cases, its highest single-day rise since late May.
In fact, India reported as many as 7.8 lakh cases this past week (January 3-9), nearly six times higher than previous week’s tally of nearly 1.3 lakh.
While cases are surging in almost every major state, the early tremors of the Omicron wave were felt in the two major metros of Mumbai and Delhi.
Around this time last month, Mumbai was reporting barely 200-odd cases on average while Delhi’s average daily count was under 50. Now, they are both reporting close to 20,000 cases every day.
The sudden spike in numbers has prompted authorities to press the panic button and impose a slew of restrictions to curb the infections and prevent the load on hospitals.
The restrictions, which were imposed as early as late-December when the cases had just begun to rise, are more of a reflex action after the Delta experience of 2021 when the health infrastructure was pushed to the brink of lakhs of people succumbed to the virus.
But is India in troubled waters again, just as it was during the months of April and May last year? Statistics seem to offer some hope.
Delta vs Omicron
By now, it is established that Omicron is relatively less mild than its predecessor Delta as well as the original strain of Covid.
Several studies and experts have said that Omicron leads to a less severe form of Covid and affects the upper respiratory tract rather than penetrating the lungs.
This doesn’t mean that Omicron should be perceived as less dangerous. But it does mean that despite a steep surge in cases, the corresponding load in hospitals would be lesser.
Here are some figures to understand this:
In Mumbai, when active cases were over 91,000 during the Delta-triggered second wave, there were close to 20,000 people admitted to various hospitals.
However, last week, when the active cases had reached the same mark again, there were just over 8,300 patients in hospitals.
When it comes to severe cases, ICU and oxygen beds occupied during the Delta wave were nearly 3-times higher compared to now. Furthermore, there were over 1,300 people on ventilator support on April 10 last year compared to 466 as on January 7, 2022.
Similarly, in Delhi, when active cases were over 61,000 last year, there were over 11,000 patients hospitalised due to Covid compared to just 2,000 patients this time with the same number of active cases.
The ICU beds occupied in Delhi during the Delta wave were nearly 10-times higher than the Omicron wave.
‘5-10% cases needed hospitalisation so far’
The numbers so far show that Omicron is indeed less lethal than the variants it succeeded. However, the sheer number of infections could still put a strain on hospitals over the coming days.
The health ministry on Monday said only 5% to 10% of the infected have sought hospitalisation so far, compared with 20% to 23% during the Delta-driven last wave that peaked in May.
Authorities in the cities of Delhi and Mumbai say most people have shown no or only minor symptoms and have recovered quickly at home.
While the numbers do spell hope for a Covid-weary India, the Centre has warned that the situation is “dynamic and evolving” and need for hospitalisation could also change rapidly.