The Moving Curve: Episode 16

Hello and welcome to The Moving Curve. I’m Rukmini, a data journalist who lives in Chennai. Every night on this mini-cast, I consider one question around the novel coronavirus epidemic in India. Tonight I return to my true love, statistics, to ask the question: what can we say about COVID-19 in India based on the data we have, and what can we just not say yet? Tonight’s episode is part of a set of two. Tomorrow’s episode takes this issue forward to ask — how do we get the data for all that we can’t answer yet.

In Episode 3, I took a look at the sort of background landscape of health statistics in India: https://medium.com/@rukminiwrites/the-moving-curve-episode-3-196c7b18bebf

India’s confirmed case count places it somewhere between the 20th and 25th worst hit countries worldwide: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries

Shreya Raman’s India Spend piece tracking the issue of how many people Indian states are testing: https://www.health-check.in/13-of-samples-in-tamil-nadu-are-testing-positive-4-in-india/

Shoaib Daniyal’s article in Scroll arguing that a large number of people who attended the Tablighi Jamaat conference were testing positive, but this was simply an artefact of the fact that India was testing so many Tablighi Jamaatis, even in some cases if they were asymptomatic: https://scroll.in/article/958392/explained-sampling-bias-drove-sensationalist-reporting-around-tablighi-coronavirus-cases

ICMR’s current testing strategy: https://icmr.nic.in/sites/default/files/upload_documents/2020-03-20_covid19_test_v3.pdf

So what can the data so far tell us? It can tell us the number of tests that the ICMR has carried out going by its testing strategy, the share of them who have tested positive, and the share of those who have died. What can it not tell us? The real number of people in the population who are infected, what share of them have been tested and patients’ clinical history while in hospital.

Thank you for listening. This episode was edited by Anand Krishnamoorthi. Tomorrow — how to get this data.

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I am a data journalist based in Chennai, India.

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