By Bharath Kancharla On May 30th, 2020

On 26 May 2020, former IAS officer, Kannan Gopinathan tweeted an infographic relating to COVID-19 cases across the world including India.

In the tweet, he claimed that among the countries with more than 1 Lakh cases, India has the second fastest doubling rate. The infographic shows that the doubling rate of India is 14 days. Only Brazil has a faster doubling rate with 13 days. The average doubling rate shown for the total cases across the world is 32 days.  Here is a fact-check of the claim made.

Claim: India has the second fastest doubling rate among the countries with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

Fact: India’s doubling rate to 1.5 lakh cases is slower than 4 other countries at that number and much slower at the threshold of 1 lakh cases. It is not proper to compare the doubling rate with date as a reference since the doubling rate in a specific country will depend on the number of cases and the stage of COVID-19 spread. Hence the claim is Misleading. 

Large variance in the number of cases between countries being compared

The number of positive cases considered for analysis in the infographic was as on 26 May 2020. There is large variance in the number of cases between countries being compared in the infographic. While India has recorded over 1.45 lakh cases, United States reported 16.62 lakh cases followed by Brazil and Russia which each of them having reported an upwards of 3.5 lakh cases. Meanwhile, UK, Spain and Italy have well over 2 lakh cases. Hence it is not proper to compare doubling rates as on a specific date.

It is general logic that it takes longer for a large number to double compared to that of a smaller number. Hence a more rational comparison between the countries would be to check, the time taken for them to double and reach around 1.45-1.5 lakh cases (close to the number of cases reported in India as on 26 May 2020), rather than comparing the number of cases in different countries on a specific date.

Below is the number of days taken for the countries to double up and reach 1.5 lakh cases. The data is sourced from Ourworldindata.org, which has information from various official sources.

As per this data, it took around 13 days for India to double up to 1.5 lakh cases. This is the fifth fastest among the top 11 countries with highest number of COVID-19 cases. At this number, USA has the fastest doubling rate of 4 days to reach 1.5 lakh case. It is followed by Russia and Brazil with 9 and 10 days respectively.  Spain’s doubling rate to reach 1.5 lakh cases was around 11 days.

Peak and the size of population

A look at the number of daily COVID-19 cases in respective countries shows that few of these countries which have the highest number of cases are reporting fewer new cases daily than earlier. These countries include Spain, Italy, Germany, Turkey, and France.  In all these countries, the daily numbers peaked during April and during most of May, the numbers are consistently lower than the peak period. They appear to have crossed the peak stage at least for now, except for a random anomaly on certain days.

Iran and UK have also been reporting fewer new cases daily than earlier, albeit not with as much variance as the above-mentioned countries.

Meanwhile, USA, Brazil and Russia have been consistently reporting higher daily numbers than earlier, similar to that of India, whose daily cases are also on the rise compared to earlier. Whether the current stage is the peak for these countries will only be known in the future.

Few of the countries which have taken longer to double to 1.5 lakh cases, have actually taken lesser time to double to a smaller number.  Here is a look at the number of days taken to double to 1 lakh cases.

As per the above data, 7 countries have taken fewer days to double to 1 lakh cases compared to India. Italy, Germany and UK took longer than India for doubling to 1.5 lakh cases but doubled to 1 lakh cases in fewer days.

If the same doubling rate is considered at a different number i.e. around 50 thousand cases, there could be more countries with shorter time than India to double.

Most of these countries referred to in the infographic have far less population when compared to India and more or less have reached the peak of COVID-19 spread by the time they reached 1.5 lakh cases. Any comparison for a larger number of cases in future would be inappropriate for these smaller countries, as the rate has considerably slowed down. Instead, comparison with USA, Russia and Brazil would be a better benchmark since these countries are on a similar trajectory as India.

It is true that number of cases in India is increasing and this increase might continue for some time in view of its vast population. However, the rate of doubling at specific milestone number of cases is lower than multiple other countries which are badly affected by COVID-19.  

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Originally published at Factly