India 'over Covid-19 peak' as nation posts lowest death toll for three months

Ben Farmer
·3-min read
Devout Hindus wearing masks as a precaution against the coronavirus stand in a queue to offer prayers at the Vindhyavasini temple in Mirzapur in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. Health officials have warned about the potential for the coronavirus to spread during the upcoming religious festival season, which is marked by huge gatherings in temples and shopping districts. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
Devout Hindus wearing masks as a precaution against the coronavirus stand in a queue to offer prayers at the Vindhyavasini temple in Mirzapur in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. Health officials have warned about the potential for the coronavirus to spread during the upcoming religious festival season, which is marked by huge gatherings in temples and shopping districts. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

India recorded its lowest daily Covid-19 death toll in three months as scientists said the country had passed the peak of its outbreak and case numbers would continue to fall.

A government-appointed committee of scientists said the disease was likely to "run its course" by February 2021, if people used masks and kept physical distancing precautions.

The world's second most populous nation has been the global epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic for weeks, but has started to see the daily tally of both cases and deaths fall.

Officials reported 579 fatalities from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, the lowest since July, driving its death toll to 114,610.

Watch: Global COVID-19 cases rise by a one-day record

The Health Ministry on Monday also reported 55,722 new cases of coronavirus infection, raising India's total to more than 7.5 million, second in the world behind America.

The panel of scientists appointed by the ministry of science and technology said cases appeared to have peaked a month ago when the daily new caseload was nudging 100,000.

Epidemiological models showed the downturn continuing until only “minimal active symptomatic infections” will be occurring by February next year.

Coronavirus India Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus India Spotlight Chart - Cases default

“This of course is premised on the assumption that people would continue to take precautionary measures, at least to the same extent that they are currently doing,” said Prof Manindra Agrawal of the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, who is part of the committee. “This is no reason to relax, or lower our guard.”

Officials fear the approach of the country's festival season, including Diwali in a month's time, could herald more reckless socialising and an uptick of cases.

“The big worry, of course, is the upcoming festival season. We have to be careful. We have seen that there was a surge in cases in Kerala after the Onam festival. That is a lesson we must learn from,” Prof Agrawal said according to Indian Express.

As many of 30 per cent of Indians may now carry antibodies to the coronavirus, the committee said, though previous estimates have put that figure far lower.

The committee also said the outbreak would have been earlier and far worse in the nation of 1.4bn people if the government had not enacted a strict lockdown in March.

Locking down the nation's cities triggered a wave of migrant workers returning to their rural villages when work dried up.

The exodus has been blamed for seeding the pandemic throughout rural India. Yet the scientists said studies on the return of workers in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, showed the effect of the mass movement had been minimal.

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