National Capital in Pandemic: Visualising the story so far

Sonali Chauhan

On August 11, we completed five months since COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic. With over 22 lakh cases and around 45,000 fatalities, India is amongst the worst-hit nations after the US and Brazil. In the first eight days of August, the total number of new cases reported from India surpassed the U.S. What is further worrying is that while the trajectory of the other two countries in terms of new cases have started showing near steady decline trend, India’s trajectory of new cases is still rising. While most of the news channels and government portals are providing daily updates on the current situation on both state and national level, in this blog I have tried to summarize data on COVID-19 cases in Delhi after almost six months into the pandemic. It is important to understand how everyday numbers are affecting the overall situation in the National Capital. The aim is to look at both the “vertical” (rise in the number of the case) and “horizontal” (new location) spread in Delhi through numbers. In this article I am not exploring “why” of the current situation but “what” is happening or has happened.

Like the rest of India, National Capital went into the total lockdown on March 24 that continued for close to two months. In March when the lockdown was announced there were only 120 reported cases. Since then the cases rose rapidly. The next month reported over 3000 cases. Within the span of three months since the pandemic was recognised, Delhi crossed the grim mark of over 1 lakh cases. The data reveals a slight decrease in July, however, this was the first month in which a slight decrease was observed as compared to previous months.  While the number of cases may have declined the data reveals an increase in containment zones, indicating the spread of the virus in new areas (Figure 5). The data further reveals that the South-West district is seemingly hit worse by the COVID-19 with the continuous increase in the containment zones in comparison with other districts. Another important point to focus is the type of transmission as a sharp increase in local transmission indicates community transmission. However, data is not available to conclude anything on the type of transmission. Based on the currently reported numbers of cases, at least 1% of the total population of Delhi has been infected.  The last serosurvey conducted in Delhi based on random sampling indicated that 1 in 4 or 23% of the population have been exposed to SARS-Cov-2 highlighting at least 77% of the population is still vulnerable. The below graphs are based on the data available until 19th August 2020.

I.      Vertical Spread in Delhi

Figure 1: The graph shows the sharp increase in the total number of cases since the Month of March. Within three months reported cases reached 1,19,655
Figure 2: The graph summarises the average  number of cases reported per day. There has been a decline since June, however, the trajectory can only be determined by the end of August. Since March the COVID-19 cases in Delhi kept increasing. While in March the reported cases were just 120, in April they rose to 3617. Further, within two months Delhi crossed the grim mark of over 1 lakh infections, reporting 1,19,655 cases in June. July reported a slight decrease as compared with the previous month. The upcoming months are going to determine if the infection rate is declining or at least reaching a steady-state.  
Figure 3: The deceased percentage has not increased much as it is reported to be between 0.31- 2%. Recovery percentage increased from 1% to 55% with respect to total reported cases over the months. The cases hospitalized are also decreasing which is in line with the news reports reporting a decline in usage of COVID Care facility. However, it again saw a spike in August. The positive outcome is that the recovery is close to the hospitalized cases.
Figure 4: Due to non-availability of information it was not possible to conclude anything on type of transmission. While Delhi government has not commented on the community transmission in Delhi, medical experts have pointed out community transmission in pockets of Delhi and Mumbai.

II) Horizontal Spread

Figure 5 Graphs indicating the increase in the number of containment zones since May 31st. The majority of people in the containment zone belong to only four districts South-West, West, North, and South. In the later part of the August West district seems to be getting better as the containment zones have come down significantly

The latest worry of Delhi is the increasing number of the containment zone. The increasing number of containment zones can be an indicator of the spread of the virus in new areas. In July the number of containment zones reached up to 700.  By the time this article was written the total number of containment zones were 578. Understanding numbers over a long period helps in understanding the trajectory of the infections. It also helps in identifying areas of high and low risk. This can help in formulating counter-strategies to fight against the pandemic and efficient distribution of limited resources.  

Data Sources : 



I would like to thank Ms Shaina Sehgal (PhD Scholar, SHE) and Ms Shiwani Yadav (Research Assistant, CUES) for providing data sources (given above) and Ms Fizala Tayebulla (Research Assistant, CUES)  for her inputs on the visualizations.

Featured Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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