- R rate is the measure of how many people can one person infect
- Target for all states and country as a whole is to have 'R' below 1.0
- India’s average R rate is around 1.06, which shows an improvement
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during the latest COVID-19 review meeting on August 11, said that the ten worst affected states, account for 80 per cent of the active coronavirus cases in India. These ten states include Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Punjab, Bihar, Gujarat, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh, where the PM said, if the virus is defeated, then the country will also emerge victorious, in its fight against the pandemic. The coronavirus attacks different regions of a country with differing intensity, but how does the country overall fare at present? The experts are using the ‘R’ rate, a method used by several countries, to measure India’s progress in managing the pandemic.
In simple terms, the ‘R’, or the Reproduction Rate, measures how infectious the coronavirus is, as it is a measure of how many people are infected by one infected person.
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Professor Sitabhra Sinha of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, has published his work on modelling and measuring ‘R’ factor in various international journals. Professor Sinha helped NDTV in analysing the R rate or the coronavirus in national and state perspective.
A declining trend of ‘R’ indicates that the state is winning the battle as the ‘R’ rate is falling i.e. the virus is not spreading or is not as infectious as earlier. Whereas, a rising trend of ‘R’ indicates that the virus is spreading faster.
If ‘R’ is 2.0, it indicates that one person who is infected with COVID-19 will on average infect two other people. Those two persons will each go on to infect another two persons – and so the infection spreads exponentially in society resulting in a pandemic. It is crucially important to ensure ‘R’ falls below 1.0, that is, one infected person spreads the virus to fewer than one other person. Only when the R falls below 1.0 will the pandemic slowly fade away.
Using the ‘R’ rate, we look at the status of coronavirus in 20 large states and Union Territories (UT) of India. The first target for all states is to have ‘R’ below 1.0.
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States With Declining ‘R’ Rate
Ten of the larger states/UTs in India have the ‘R’ showing a declining trend. These are Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Odisha, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
Of these ten states, Gujarat, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir have the ‘R’ below 1.
However, this doesn’t mean the states have successfully won the fight against the pandemic, as the trends for Telangana show that the ‘R’ fell below 1.0 for a while (in the third week of July) and then spiked again.
As per the data, Telangana needs a policy effort to bring the ‘R’ back down to under 1.0 to ensure that the spread of the virus slows down. Whereas, there are some worrying signs in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh that the encouraging downward trend of ‘R’ may have halted – urgent measures are needed to ensure that the downward trend continues.
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States Displaying A Sudden Spike
In six of the larger states of India, there are some indicators of a new spike or a surge in the spread of the coronavirus, as per the R rate methodology. These six states are Assam, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.
Assam and Chhattisgarh had brought ‘R’ down to under 1.0, in the initial days of the pandemic, but in the last two weeks, the ‘R’ has risen above 1.30.
As per the data analysis, Delhi has been the most successful state in ‘flattening the curve’ of coronavirus cases, but there is a significant new concern as per the ‘R’ trend of the national capital.
While the level of ‘R’ in Delhi is still low, in the last two weeks, there has been a rise in ‘R’ from 0.75 to 1.05.
Among the most successful states in combating the coronavirus has been Tamil Nadu, but, like Delhi, there has been a rise in R recently – and even though the level of R is still around 1.0, the trend may be rising further.
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States With High ‘R’ Rate
The four most worrying states in India are Bihar, West Bengal, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, as per the R rate indicators. In these states, the virus does not appear to be under control, as seen with the ‘R’ rate.
Of these four states, Bihar seems to be the most worrying state of the lot, as the state’s R rate remains high. Punjab seemed to have somewhat controlled the virus about two-months ago, but the current ‘R’ rate indicates that the virus could spread again rapidly.
West Bengal’s data shows a second surge, which has taken the ‘R’ on the higher side. Lastly, as per the trends, Uttar Pradesh, has had a consistently high ‘R’ rate, and despite the recent downturn in ‘R’, the level remains high.
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When it comes to the all-India average, ‘R’ indicates that contrary to the widely-held view that the virus is out of control in India, the situation in India appears to be improving, with the R falling from 1.19 to 1.05.
The rate of increase in new COVID cases is finally falling. A decline in the percentage increase – rather than a decline in absolute numbers – is the first indication of a possible “flattening of the curve” of the pandemic, as per the data.
This daily percentage decline appears to be a continuing trend so far – it has dropped from 3.7 per cent only a few weeks ago to 2.3 per cent currently.
Yet, even this rate of increase is by far the highest in the world, so it is imperative that this declining trend continues. At the current rate of increase, India will overtake Brazil in the total number of COVID cases by mid-September and could even overtake the United States by early October. If this declining trend continues and hopefully strengthens, this outcome will be avoided.
The level of fatality rate in India has consistently been lower than in most countries, as the data suggests. The world average is 3.5 per cent to 4 per cent with some countries at a much higher level, like Italy at 14 per cent and Spain at 10 per cent.
India is also seeing a trend of lower and lower fatalities, especially over the last three-four weeks, falling from 2.4 per cent to 1.9 per cent.
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