India’s Latest Covid Surge May Be Declining, Officials Say

India’s Latest Covid Surge May Be Declining, Officials Say

NEW DELHI — After weeks of a deadly coronavirus surge most likely fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, Indian health officials said that the number of cases appeared to be declining, even as daily numbers remained high in some parts of the country.

“We are seeing the pandemic situation has improved,” Dr. V.K. Paul, who heads India’s Covid task force, said at a news conference on Thursday. “There are states and districts of concern, but overall there is a contraction in the spread of infection, which is heartening,” he said.

Only a few weeks earlier, the country had reported more than 340,000 daily cases. On Thursday, that number had come down to 172,433 cases, the health ministry said. And the percentage of positive test results in the country had fallen by 50 percent, according to government data.

“This shows that the infection spread has come down substantially,” said Lav Agarwal, a joint secretary from the health ministry.

Given the recent trends, officials recommended that some states consider reopening schools and advised people who were waiting at home for elective surgeries to come forward.

Even amid the good news, on Friday, India’s official total Covid death count surpassed 500,000. Experts have said that the actual toll is most likely far higher than what is officially reported in part because deaths are often underreported.

One reason for the recent spike in reported deaths is that health officials in the southern state of Kerala, which has been heralded for its success in tracing and managing the virus, recently reported a backlog of 18,000 deaths to the country’s overall tally.

In another nod to the government’s optimism, officials in Delhi, India’s capital, announced Friday that they would relax some Covid restrictions there. Starting Feb. 7 schools, colleges, gyms and spas can reopen with some restrictions. Offices can reopen at full capacity, and a citywide night curfew has been shortened by an hour, the Delhi government said.

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