Pune scales a new peak, detects 9,126 Covid-19 cases in a day

Currently, ten percent of all the cases in the country are coming from Pune every day. Pune has been one of the biggest hot spots of the epidemic in India right from the start.

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Breaking all previous records, Pune recorded the detection of 9,126 cases of coronavirus infections on Friday, the highest that any city in India has ever reported. The previous highest for any city was recorded just a day earlier, when Mumbai had reported 8,646 infections. Before this, Delhi had recorded 8,593 cases on November 1 last year.

Pune had been threatening to break this record for the last one week, during which it has consistently recorded more than 8,000 cases a day. Delhi has crossed the 8,000-mark just once, but Pune has already gone over that figure four times in the last one week. Just to put things in perspective, the whole of Karnataka, which was the second biggest contributor of positive cases after Maharashtra on Friday, reported less than 5,000 cases.

Even Mumbai scaled a new peak on Friday, reporting 8,948 new cases. Maharashtra, which has been contributing more than 60 per cent of all the new infections in India during the second wave, reported 47,913 cases on Friday, a new high.

India re-entered the 90,000 cases-a-day range after five and a half months. The maximum number of cases reported from the country in a single day was 97,894 on September 16 last year. That record seems most likely to get surpassed in the next couple of days.

Currently, ten percent of all the cases in the country are coming from Pune every day. Pune has been one of the biggest hot spots of the epidemic in India right from the start. The first positive case in Maharashtra was detected from Pune on March 9 last year. And though it had been outpaced by Mumbai for some time in the early phase of the pandemic, Pune eventually took over and became the worst affected city not just in Maharashtra, but in the entire country, a dubious distinction that it enjoyed for quite some time till Delhi, and later even Bengaluru, overtook it.

But cases began to explode again last month, and suddenly Pune was reporting far higher number of cases than its last year’s peak of 5,929 cases in a day.

As one of the largest cities in the country, it has all the right conditions that favour the spread of an epidemic like this. The surprising part, however, is that its situation is markedly worse than much larger urban agglomerations with bigger populations like Mumbai, or Delhi, or Bengaluru, where conditions for the spread of the epidemic are even more suitable.

Pune is not as populous as Delhi or Mumbai or Kolkata, nor is it more densely packed. It doesn’t get as many foreign travellers as Delhi or Mumbai or Bengaluru or Hyderabad. There is no evidence to suggest that people in Pune are any more reckless in following physical distancing or wearing masks compared to any of the other cities.

Pune is not even testing more than other cities. So, the high numbers cannot be attributed to higher testing. In fact, testing in Pune has been relatively modest compared to Delhi and Mumbai. The highest that Pune has tested in a single day is about 30,000 samples. A city like Delhi has frequently tested 70,000 to 80,000 samples in a day.

Scientists and experts are unable cite any particular reason for the miserable situation that Pune finds itself in. It is one of the several things about this pandemic that remain unexplained.

With Friday’s addition, Pune’s total caseload, since the start of the epidemic, has gone up to more than 5.53 lakh, which is second only to Delhi’s 6.62 lakh. But what is more worrying is the fact that the city now has more than 70,000 active cases, the highest for any city in the country right now. This is not the highest for the city, though. Last year, Pune has had more than 82,000 active cases at one point. But the numbers have increased very rapidly this time, and reports of shortage of beds in hospitals have begun to emerge.

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Cities with highest Covid-19 caseloads:

Unlike last year, hospitals this time also have the normal rush of non-Covid patients. And even though a much larger proportion of active patients are being kept under home isolation this time, compared to last year, the pressure on the city’s health infrastructure is building up.

The coronavirus-related death count in Pune now exceeds 10,000, behind only Delhi and Mumbai, though, curiously, the state government database continues to show a substantially lower number. According to the state government data, Pune has registered only 8,373 deaths till now. The discrepancy, which has been persisting for a very long time, is due to the fact that data-entry is happening at multiple places, and reconciliation does not take place very frequently. Also, it is possible that some deaths that Pune district is counting as its own is shown in the state data as happening in other places. That is because lots of patients from other cities and towns come to Pune for treatment.

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