India has 6 million cases of COVID-19. But experts fear that may rise before two major events

The number of registered cases of COVID-19 in India has reached six million, as the country comes close to overtaking the United States as the country most affected by the pandemic.

And Ministry of Health data showed 82,170 new positive cases during the past 24 hours. It also reported that deaths from COVID-19 increased by 1,039 in the same period to 95,542, which is 1.6 percent of the total cases.

Most of India’s Covid-19 deaths remain concentrated in its large cities, but smaller urban centers across the country’s vast landscape are also indicating an increase in infections.

However, even as infections are increasing, India has the largest number of recovering patients in the world.

More than 5 million people have recovered from COVID-19 in India and the country’s recovery rate is 82 percent, according to the Ministry of Health.

India’s health ministry previously cited the drop in the death toll as evidence of its success in fighting the pandemic and a basis for easing restrictions and reopening the economy after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a strict lockdown for all residents earlier this year.

New infections are being reported in India faster than anywhere else in the world.(ABC News: Nagish Uhal)

But some experts say the numbers are misleading and India does not count many deaths.

“We are reducing the number of deaths due to an unknown factor,” said Dr. T. Jacob John, a retired virologist.

The Health Ministry has been angered by earlier allegations of a low death toll, but declined to comment two weeks ago on whether countries were reporting all suspected and confirmed deaths from the virus.

Exact numbers are difficult to pin down during a pandemic: countries count cases and deaths differently, and testing for the virus is uneven, making direct comparisons misleading.

In India, death data recording was poor even before the outbreak. Of the 10 million estimated deaths each year, less than a quarter have been fully documented, and only a fifth of those are medically certified, according to national figures.

Most Indians die at home, not in hospital, and doctors are not usually present to record the cause of death. This is becoming more prevalent in rural areas, where the virus is now spreading.

Two Indian women are in hospital rooms, separated by a white curtain
India is on its way to overtaking the United States and becoming the country most affected by the epidemic in the coming weeks.(ABC News: Nagish Uhal)

Dr Prabhat Jha, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto who has studied deaths in India, said countries must err on the side of overestimating deaths if they want to make progress in fighting the virus.

“It is better not to have an underestimation,” Dr. Jha told The Associated Press.

Health experts have warned that the virus could spread during the upcoming religious holiday season, which is characterized by huge gatherings of people in temples and shopping areas.

Another potential risk is the upcoming elections in the eastern state of Bihar, where nearly 72 million people will vote in three days beginning in October.

A young girl in a Frozen dress and mask walks down the street next to an older woman wearing a sari
Even as the number of infections rises, India has the largest number of recovering patients in the world. (ABC News: Nagish Uhal)

ABC / AP

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