MUMBAI: The next peak in Mumbai’s Covid graph, if at all, is unlikely to be as damaging or widespread as the May or the September Covid surges, according to scientists from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Colaba. However, hospitalisations would be much higher if the city opened up completely in the first week of November as against January 1, their studies have projected.
Using data available till October 26, the TIFR team says the city would more or less reach ‘herd immunity’ with almost 80% of the slum population and 55% of the non-slum population being exposed to the virus by January 2021.
Having studied the percentage of population infected by the virus in three wards across Mumbai, it said the increase in cases about a week or two after Diwali would appear like a “bump” in comparison to previous peaks. “Even if there is an increase in intermingling for Diwali of the same order we saw for Ganpati, corresponding increase in infections will be lesser,” said Dr Sandeep Juneja, dean of TIFR’s School of Technology and Computer Science. This is because more Mumbaikars have been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2-causing Covid-19 now than in August-end when the Ganpati festival ended. “More people are likely to have developed some kind of immunity,” he said.
New projections were developed for both November and January assuming the economy and local trains are fully opened. Reopening schools and colleges in January 2021 would not majorly increase hospitalisations, the team said. “Our key observation is the second wave of hospitalisations and critical cases would be substantially higher with the November 1 opening as compared to the January 1 opening,’’ said Dr Juneja.
Hospitalisations could jump from 2,300-3,200 a day with the November 1 loosening of restrictions while it would be between 200 and 2,000 a day if it is January 1. The November 1 opening could lead to 20-30 fatalities a day, while the corresponding number for January 1 would be 4-20 a day.
TIFR has been working with BMC on sero studies to find the prevalence of Covid-19 in three civic wards. A July study found 57% in slums and 16% in non-slums had antibodies as against 42% and 18% in August (though dip in proportion infected was likely due to fast declining antibodies).
Based on a simulation model and data from the first sero survey, the team recommended a blueprint on gradual unlocking of trains and offices till November to reduce the impact of Covid.
The TIFR paper also looked at effect of vaccination on Covid’s tally and toll. “One scenario we worked out was that if 13.1 lakh people over 60 years of age are given the Covid-19 vaccine if it becomes available in February 2021, assuming that it is 100% effective, it will reduce mortality by over 50% in the six months thereafter,” said Dr Ramprasad Saptharishi from TIFR’s computer science department. Hospitalisations, including critical cases, will reduce by estimated 40% from around 8,840 to 5,340 in the six months following the February vaccination.
If 29.3 lakh people over 50 years in Greater Mumbai are vaccinated on February 1, number of fatalities thereafter will drop by estimated 64%. “Around 950 deaths as per today’s calculations would reduce to 340 in the next 6 months,” said Juneja. Hospitalisations will reduce by an estimated 67% over a six-month period.

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