NEW DELHI: Number of active symptomatic Covid-19 cases in India has already peaked at around 10 lakhs on September 17 and the cases, which are now declining, may reach the cumulative figure of 1.06 crore with negligible growth by the end of February next year, a government’s expert committee said on Sunday. It means the pandemic can be controlled by early next year with “minimal active symptomatic infections” in February, 2021.
Releasing its projection based on a mathematical model, the Committee, however, said this number would start rising again if proper practices of masking, disinfecting, tracing, and quarantine were not followed.
“This is not a reason for us to relax because this nice downward trend will continue only if we continue with the protective measures,” said chairman of the panel, M Vidyasagar of the IIT Hyderabad, while making a virtual presentation of the findings of the Committee.
According to this panel, comprising scientists from IITs, IISc Bangalore, ISI Kolkata and CMC Vellore, India has, in fact, reached its peak four days earlier than the peak projection (September 21) made by this “COVID-19 India National Supermodel”.
The Committee, appointed by the ministry of science & technology to collate the collective expertise of the Indian scientific community, and to arrive at the model, has found that 30% of the country’s population, at present, is projected to have antibodies as against 14% in August end – it’s double the ICMR survey that had, projected that 7% of the population had antibodies in August end.
“This number being at 30% of the population with antibodies at the moment is good news as that is what the explanation for the downturn in this pandemic. The other point is that the cumulative mortality projected to be less than 0.04% of total infected,” said Vidyasagar.
In addition to these projections, the Committee, based on temporal profiles of analyses done for Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, concluded that the impact of labour migration on the total number of infections in these states was minimal, indicating success of quarantine strategies adopted for the returning migrants.
The Committee also simulated what would have happened in hypothetical alternative scenarios with regard to the timing of lockdown regime and said with no lockdown, the pandemic would have hit India very hard, with a peak load of over 1.4 crore cases arriving in June.
“Had India waited until May to impose the lockdown, the peak load of active cases would have been around 50 lakhs by June,” it said, noting that the imposition of an early and comprehensive lockdown pushed the peak of cases far into the future and also reduced the peak load on the system.
It said the lockdown “flattened the curve”. Analysing the actual deaths from the pandemic with various alternative scenarios, the panel noted that without a lockdown the number of deaths in India would have overwhelmed the system within a very short timeframe, and would eventually have crossed 26 lakhs fatalities.
“Therefore, the imposition of an early and comprehensive lockdown pushed the peak of cases far into the future and also reduced the peak load on the system,” said Vidyasagar.
With making the projections, the Committee suggested that the fresh lockdowns should not be imposed on district and statewide levels, unless there is imminent danger of the healthcare facilities being overwhelmed.
It, however, emphasised that the existing personal safety protocols need to continue in full measure, noting that it does not yet know the weather-specific perturbations of this pandemic (in general, viruses tend to be more active in colder environment) and the effects of possible future mutations in the virus.
“Avoiding congestion especially in closed spaces and special care of those above 65 years and children is even more significant. Personnel with co-morbidities need to be extra cautious,” said the panel in its suggestions.
Doing a comparative analysis, the Committee noted that the imposition of various safety protocols such as wearing masks, social distancing etc., together with a comprehensive lockdown has allowed India to fare better than many other countries.
“India has one-sixth of the world’s population (one-fifth excluding China), and one-sixth of the reported cases. However, India accounts for only 10% of the world’s deaths, and its case fatality rate of less than 2% is among the lowest in the world. India’s fatality rate per million is about a tenth that of the European countries and the USA,” said the Committee.

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