New Delhi: India’s effective reproduction number or R value for Covid — an indicator of how fast the infection is spreading — has increased further to 2.89, the highest since the pandemic first hit the country in 2020. It was 1.96 on 4 January.
R represents the average number of people who are likely to catch the disease from one infected person. The R value should remain below 1 for an epidemic to come to an end.
Moreover, a majority of the states are recording unprecedented R values. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar’s R values have crossed 6.6.
Sitabhra Sinha, a researcher at the Indian Institute of Mathematical Sciences, who has been tracking R values since the beginning of the pandemic, told ThePrint, “The India-wide R is the highest I have recorded since the beginning of Covid in March 2020.”
“This is surprising as one expects that with successive waves, the spreading rate should decrease as the pathogen finds lesser and lesser number of people who are susceptible to it, especially with vaccination going on for around a year,” he added.
“It suggests that whichever variant is responsible for this outbreak is able to evade the immune defence due to prior infection or vaccination. This is consistent with the contention that the Covid vaccines are meant to prevent severe disease and not infection itself,” he added.
The highest R value, of 6.87, is being reported from Uttar Pradesh. Around 4 January, it was at 4.36. Similarly, Bihar’s R value, which was already 6 last week, has increased further to 6.67.
For Madhya Pradesh, R increased to 5.65 from 2.11 on 4 January. Punjab also saw an increase in R to 5.34 this week from 3.43 last week. Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh both have R over 5, at 5.17 and 5.34 respectively.
Delhi’s R rose to 4.82 from 4.63 over the course of a week. Haryana, Chandigarh and Odisha also have R values over 4, at 4.01, 4.29 and 4.82 respectively.
While most states saw a rise in R values, Jharkhand’s decreased from last week’s 5.38 to 2.14.
Sinha pointed out that all the states which have over 2,000 active Covid-19 cases now have R over 1, including Kerala, which had managed to keep it at less than 1 at least till the end of last year.
Bengaluru’s R increased significantly to 3.21 from 1.48, while Chennai saw a similar rise to 3.9 from 1.26.
Similarly, for Pune, R rose to 3.78 from 1.74. Kolkata’s R also more than doubled to 2.86 from 1.06.
However, for Mumbai, R saw a decline to 2.13 from 3.55 this week.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)