Delhi’s real COVID-19 infection rate is 41 times higher: SeroSurvey

Satyendar Jain

A total of 58 lakh people are likely to have been already infected by Coronavirus by the first week of this month, nearly 41 times higher than the official figure of 1.4 lakh at the time, according to the latest COVID-19 sero-survey in the capital city.

The estimate for Delhi is also twice as high as the all India tally of 28 lakh.

The survey, conducted between Aug 1 and Aug 7 using 15,000 representative samples, found that 29.1% of the people in Delhi have already caught the virus and recovered from it.

“If you assume that Delhi’s population is 2 crore, then around 58 lakh [5.8 million] people have been infected and recovered,” Delhi’s health minister Satyender Jain said.

A previous survey, conducted in May, had found that 22% people had got infected by the virus.

The vast majority of these people have recovered from the infection and there is nothing to panic about, Jain said.

Surprisingly, the rate of infection was seen to be higher among women at 32.2%, compared to 28.3% among men. Jain said this may be because women create antibodies faster than men.

Similarly, young people (below 18) showed higher anti-body prevalence rates at 34.7% compared to 31.2% among those 50 or above.

The lowest percentage of infection at 28.5% was detected among people between 18 and 49.

In terms of areas, the highest prevalence was seen South East Delhi district at 33%, followed by North East Delhi at 29% and South Delhi at 27%. New Delhi had the lowest prevalence at 24%.

The estimated number of 58 lakh infections in Delhi is much much higher than what the government has been able to locate using its health infrastructure.

Officially, the total number Coronavirus patients in Delhi is still just 1.56 lakh, indicating that the government is able to identify less than 1 in 30 people who have been infected by the virus.

Jain, however, said the positive takeaway is that 29% have recovered. Nevertheless, he warned people against becoming complacent.

“Since we have not reached herd immunity yet, the others need to be careful,” he said.

At the same time, he noted, the virus is not spreading as fast as feared.

“Last time, we had seen that it was 22%, and this time, we expected it to increase by 50% [to 33%], but it has only increased by around 25%,” he said.

Jain said the highest increases are seen in areas where the prevalence was very low in round 1.

He said sero-surveys will be conducted every month from now on.