August seems to have brought some relief for the country’s healthcare administration, as new Covid-19 cases are not reflecting an untoward pattern with many States reporting either single-digit or zero deaths on most days of the month.

And this, experts says, is due to increased vaccination coverage, greater natural immunity because of higher sero prevalence, and, possibly, reduced virulence of the virus.

In the first 19 days of the month, India reported 6,62,832 new cases and 8,815 deaths with case fatality rate at 1.33 per cent, which is less than half of 3 per cent reported in June 2021 and lower than 1.44 per cent reported in August 2020. Rajasthan reported zero deaths this month; Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat zero deaths on most days; Delhi saw zero deaths on seven days; Uttar Pradesh hasn’t hit reported double-digit deaths so far this month. In the South, Telangana has reported two deaths and Andhra Pradesh 15-20 daily.

Natural immunity

Experts attribute the reduced numbers to multiple factors. “The severity of the disease has reduced because of a weakened virus. Second, the sero prevalence survey showed 60-70 per cent of the population developing sero positivity. This means the natural immunity against the virus; so even if they are re-infected, the chances of mortality are low,” said DK Mangal, a public health expert and Advisor to SD Gupta School of Public Health, IIHMR University - Jaipur. Mangal cautioned, though, on the under reporting and un-reported covid deaths. “We can’t rule out this aspect which could also keep the reported death numbers low,” he said.

Speaking to BusinessLine , Tushar Patel, a pulmonologist and member, Gujarat Covid Task Force, mentioned that infectivity of the virus was high during the peak of the second wave. “Though detected cases were less, because of the high infectivity, a large population got infected in cities and villages. This developed natural immunity for people,” said Patel.

Low mortality

Vaccination is also helping to prevent deaths. “We are observing that most of the new infections are with at least one dose of vaccine, therefore we don’t see much mortality,” Patel added.

Meanwhile, the data shows States such as Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala are still reporting higher deaths than their immediate neighbours, thereby raising concerns over the severity of the infections. Jayesh Lele, Secretary General at Indian Medical Association (IMA) stated that most States follow a common reporting system for Covid deaths.