Photo by BL soni
Photo by BL soni

A second wave of COVID-19 cases have driven India's COVID-19 case tally upwards over the past few weeks. As per data shared by the Health Ministry on Tuesday morning, the country recorded more than 40 thousand fresh cases in the last 24 hours, pushing the total number of active cases to over 3.45 lakh.

Against this backdrop, many reports have tracked the corresponding rise in the 'R' rate. Simply put, this is a measure of the virus' ability to spread, with R denoting the number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to. As per global reports, if allowed to spread unchecked, COVID-19 would have a reproduction number of around three.

But why are R numbers a concern for India? While the number had declined corresponding to the gradual fall in cases, the recent surge has sent the R rate soaring. Even as several mutations emerge, the virus' reproduction rate in India has reportedly jumped to 1.32. This is the highest since April 2020.

In April 2020 however, the total case tally had been less than 30,000. COVID-19 had been a relatively new phenomenon at the time, with limited research and understanding of the virus or what may cure it. Testing had been much lower, and vaccines had been a distant goal.

Now at the end of March 2021, India is contending with several lakh cases, and more than 4,84,94,594 vaccinations have been administered. In spite of the improved circumstances however, the transmissibility appears to be on an upward trend.

The idea is to get the R rate below one, to ensure that the virus simply cannot infect enough people to sustain the pandemic situation. And while nations such as the UK now have numbers less than one, India seems poised to rise further.

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Free Press Journal