Were elections ‘superspreader’ events? Cases surged after busiest polling day

West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry all saw a steep rise in cases after April 6

The surge in COVID-19 cases in India is not restricted to Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. Over the past 10 days, the virus has also run rampant in the four states and one Union territory that have held elections. (In case of West Bengal the elections are not yet over.)

West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry all saw a steep rise in cases after April 6, the busiest day in the election schedule for the five assemblies, according to Ministry of Health data.

Also read: Déjà vu: Trajectory of COVID cases reflective of last July’s growth

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The Test Positivity Rate (TPR) – the number of positive cases per hundred tests – in these places is no different from TPR in the worst-affected states in the country.

Maharashtra, which has the highest number of active cases, reported a TPR of 19.32 per cent on March 17. Kerala had a TPR of 3.49 per cent at the same time. Tamil Nadu, Assam and West Bengal had very low TPRs in mid-March. According to the data, these states had TPR values of 1.31, 0.25 and 2.37 per cent, respectively.

Also read: India’s export of vaccine doses more than it has used for inoculation

In the 10 days since April 6, TPRs have spiralled in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry (from 4.51 to 8.37 per cent, and from 7.8 to 14.7 per cent). West Bengal (16.07 per cent) and Kerala (13.34 per cent) also reported alarming figures. Assam saw the biggest change. Its TPR jumped from below zero to almost 5 per cent in just ten days after the elections.

Overall Chhattisgarh reported the highest surge of about 29 per cent in one month. Pondicherry has the highest increase in percentage among poll states.

Daily new cases have increased manifold. Assam, which reported just 22 cases on March 17, clocked 499 cases on April 15. Cases in Tamil Nadu jumped from 68 to 7,987 during the same period. Among non-election states, it was Uttar Pradesh that experienced the maximum change in daily case numbers.

Despite the onslaught, testing hasn’t seen much change over the last ten days. Maharashtra is conducting the highest number of tests (about 2 lakh daily) and reporting the maximum number of cases. Uttar Pradesh is following the path of Maharashtra. Tamil Nadu is testing about 80,000 samples every day while West Bengal and Kerala are testing around 50,000 samples.

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