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Is the pandemic slowing down in India?

Passengers wearing protective face masks stand in a queue on a platform to get tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a railway station, in New Delhi, India, October 5, 2020.
Passengers wearing protective face masks stand in a queue on a platform to get tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a railway station, in New Delhi, India, October 5, 2020.

After six-and-a-half million cases, and more than 100,000 deaths, is the coronavirus pandemic slowing down in India?

Consider this.

India has been recording an average of 64,000 cases daily so far this month, down from more than 86,000 daily cases in the last two weeks of September. It’s also a steep drop from earlier in September, when daily cases averaged around 93,000. Daily deaths too have been declining in most states.But testing has remained consistent.

More than 1.1 million samples have been tested daily on an average so far in October, up from 70,000 in August. Last month, 1.05 million samples, on an average, were tested daily.

So, on the face of it, it appears there has been a slowdown in case numbers. But epidemiologists I spoke with say the numbers should be interpreted with caution.

Daily confirmed cases in selected Indian states
Daily confirmed cases in selected Indian states

They believe that the recent decline in cases and deaths is a promising signal, but it’s far too early to say that the pandemic is receding.

For one, just high testing and declining case counts may not be enough to come to a conclusion. Half of the total tests India is conducting are the rapid antigen ones.

They are quicker and cheaper, but also less reliable, with accuracy in some cases as low as 50%. The PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, which isolates genetic material from a swab sample and is the gold standard of testing, is more expensive and results takes longer.

“How much of India’s declining case numbers have been contributed by these rapid tests, and how much of it is a real slowdown is difficult to say,” Dr Shahid Jameel, a leading virologist, told me.

He said scientists will know for certain only if the government releases data on how many PCR and antigen tests are being done, which can then be compared with the daily case load.

India has also allowed on-demand testing, which may inflate test numbers of asymptomatic persons, according to Dr K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, a Delhi-based think tank.

On the other hand, antibody surveys and epidemiological models suggest that the burden of India’s hidden infections remains large.

India already has around 120-130 million infections, estimates Bhramar Mukherjee, a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Michigan who has been closely tracking the pandemic. That’s less than 10% of the population. Countrywide antibody tests alone suggest 90 million Indians – about 15 times the official caseload – have had the infection.

“There is still a lot of forest left for the virus to spread like wildfire,” Dr Mukherjee told me. “Let us try to keep it as a slow burning coil. We also want to give our health care system time to replenish, recharge, restock.”

So what would

CDC slowing pace on releasing new coronavirus health guidance

For the last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stopped issuing new health information related to the novel coronavirus after altering the procedure by which that information was being shared with the American people, sources with direct knowledge of the change told ABC News.



a blue sign sitting on the side of a building: A general view of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 24, 2020.


© Tami Chappell/AFP via Getty Images
A general view of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 24, 2020.

The type of information that has been withheld has previously been vital to hospitals, health officials and local leaders on the front lines providing updated guidance on how to treat, test and slow the spread of the illness, which has claimed over 200,000 American lives. A source told ABC News that includes additional “guidance on who should be tested and when,” adding, “That stuff won’t get updated.”

From at least Sept. 24 to Sept. 30, the CDC has stopped updating new health guidance and recommendation information, according to the sources. An ABC News review of the CDC website shows a timeline that supports the lack of information being updated.

­­A CDC source familiar with the COVID response called the halt in information flow to the American public a “moratorium,” adding, “Scientists are prevented from updating the CDC website with new information, recommendations and policies surrounding COVID.” A separate source confirmed CDC guidance updates are not currently being published, but disagreed with the categorization of a “moratorium” and instead insisted “agency leadership is just ensuring the review process is being followed.”

MORE: CDC director, despite Trump criticism, sticks to timeline that most Americans to get vaccine by summer 2021

“If any updates are made to existing guidance or new guidance is made, the CDC is requiring every piece to have approved talking points and maybe a summary statement,” CDC employees and scientists learned on a CDC conference call Wednesday morning according to a source that was on the briefing call.

The source told ABC News, “We know we have new science, but updates based on new and emerging science are not updated or able to be shared,” including CDC “recommendations on best practices and guidance on how to protect yourself and others from getting and spreading COVID.”

This new requirement will create a backlog of information from over a week ago, according to the sources.



Robert R. Redfield wearing a suit and tie: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield speaks at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee reviewing coronavirus response efforts, Sept. 16, 2020, in Washington, D.C.


© Andrew Harnik/Pool via Getty Images
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield speaks at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee reviewing coronavirus response efforts, Sept. 16, 2020, in Washington, D.C.

One source told ABC News within the last several days more precise testing guidance for nursing homes was cleared and has yet to be posted. This delay is in sharp contrast to previous action, when guidance was being posted quickly, the source added.

“If this information is true, it is truly chilling. Political interference with CDC is one of the major reasons why our response to this pandemic has been such a disaster,” said Dr.

Second wave of the virus, infection rate slowing

Visitors watch the dolphins show while keeping one bench as safety distance at the Madrid Zoo Aquarium Park on August 25, 2020, in Madrid, Spain.

Miguel Pereira | Getty Images News | Getty Images

There is cause for cautious optimism in some European countries battling the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, as the rate of daily new infections starts to stabilize.

Meanwhile, a report published Thursday bolstered hopes that the country is getting its recent spike in coronavirus cases back under control. The U.K.’s Imperial College London published the latest findings from an ongoing study into the prevalence of the virus in which it said that the coronavirus’ reproduction (or R) number “had decreased from 1.7 to 1.1 … but with a wide possible range for the recent value of 0.7 to 1.5.”

The R number indicates the number of secondary infections generated from one infected individual, on average. Scientists want to keep the R number below 1 to slow the spread of the disease.

“This suggests that the rate of new infections has decreased, but an R above 1 would mean cases will continue to rise if current trends continue,” Imperial scientists said, reporting the results from swab tests carried out on more than 80,000 people between Sept. 18 and 26 as part of its “REACT 1” study.

The study tracks current cases of Covid-19 in the community by testing more than 150,000 randomly-selected people each month over a two-week period. Volunteers take nose and throat swabs at home, which are then analyzed in a laboratory.

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the REACT program at Imperial, said the results suggested some of the measures introduced in the U.K. to stop the spread of the virus, including the “rule of six” limiting social gatherings, could be having an effect.

“While our latest findings show some early evidence that the growth of new cases may have slowed, suggesting efforts to control the infection are working, the prevalence of infection is the highest that we have recorded to date,” he said.

“This reinforces the need for protective measures to limit the spread of the disease and the public’s adherence to these.”

The U.K. has seen some of its highest numbers of daily infections over the last week. On Wednesday, 7,108 many cases were reported, following 7,143 new cases on Tuesday, the highest daily rise in infections recorded so far.

Mixed signals

As well as the U.K., other European countries have tightened coronavirus measures to stem the spread of the virus, with measures including the re- introduction of localized lockdowns in some regions and cities and limiting the number of people that can socially gather, as well as the opening hours of pubs, bars and restaurants.

Germany and Spain have both announced tougher regional measures this week to curb spikes in coronavirus cases, particularly in urban areas, with outbreaks traced to family gatherings.

Major European countries that have seen spikes are also seeing what could be signs that the daily number of