City Express News
In an interview withNational News Channel, Prof M Vidyasagar said the second Covid-19 wave is likely to attain its peak by the end of this week. He said different states would attain their peaks at different times.
May,5,202,New Delhi: By May 7, India could see the peak of the second wave of coronavirus cases, suggested Prof M Vidyasagar, the government’s mathematical modelling expert on Covid-19 case predictions.
“If you take the nation as a whole, our prediction is that we may see a decline coming by the end of this week, which is by about May 7. Cases should start declining, but different states will peak at different times. The nationwide and cumulative total is at the peak now or is very, very close to it,” he said in an interview .
If the predictions hold true, it would be a huge relief for the country to cross the national peak of the second wave by this weekend.
“We take the seven-day rolling average because the daily numbers keep fluctuating. As a result, we should not just look at the raw numbers but also at a daily moving average. That number will begin to decline by the end of the present week,” Prof Vidyasagar said.
DIFFERENT STATES TO PEAK DIFFERENTLY
Speaking about the situation in various states and the trend therein, Prof Vidyasagar explained that different states would attain their peak at different times, and see a decline in their cases, as is currently being seen in the case of Maharashtra.
“The second wave basically started in Maharashtra. States that are located far away from Maharashtra will see a slow peak and the decline will be slower. States that are closer to Maharashtra will attain their peaks soon and their graph will start declining sooner,” he said.
Asked if there could be states that would reach their peaks after May, Prof Vidyasagar said that’s unlikely.
“We are expecting the all-India total to peak by this week. Maximum by another 10-15 days, we expect every Indian state to peak and begin a downturn. There could be outliers as well. But by and large, that is what we expect,” he said.
Prof Vidyasagar said if one compares curves of the first and second wave, one would find that in the first wave the rise in cases was very gentle.
“It took about 3.5 months to reach the peak and the drop was equally gentle. In the second wave, on April 1 we had 75,000 cases and exactly a month later, we breached the 4-lakh mark. We expect that the decline will be more or less as rapid as the rise was. The nationwide caseload by the end of May should be something around 1.2 lakh per day.”
He however clarified that we are not going to see zero cases. “That’s something that is not going to happen.”
Prof Gautam Menon, Prof of Biology at Ashoka University, on the other hand, anticipates the peak will come towards the second week of May or around mid-May.
Dr Ashish Jha, Dean at the Brown University School of Public Health, disagrees with Prof Vidyasagar’s idea that the number of cases will drop as quickly as they rose in the second wave in India.
“That depends on policy. If the policy is effective in bringing cases to control, then they could decline quickly. If it is not, then the experience of many countries is that you peak, but very slowly meander down which could take months. I am not confident that we could see a dramatic decline in cases. We may end up being at a very high peak for a long period of time,” he said.
Dr Ashish Jha suggested the end of the second wave would depend on how well we do in regard to testing and vaccination, along with preventing further spread of the virus.
“My take is that it is going to take through the month of May. Probably through a large part of June. We could end up getting into July too. Sometime in June, we could get into the figure of 1 lakh cases per day,” he said.
While India is still grappling with the second Covid-19 wave, there have been concerns about the possibility of a third wave hitting the country.
Prof Vidyasagar said even though in the second wave a large number of people tested positive for Covid-19, there could be those who were infected and were asymptomatic, but have not been tested.
“These are the people who are going to remain immune for at least six months. They will begin to lose immunity towards the end of that period. So, that is when we need to have our vaccination programme well-underway. Even if they begin to lose their immunity, they should not remain susceptible to catch the virus. If we vaccinate a substantial part of the at-risk population in about six months, then the third wave could end up being a third bump instead of the horrific wave that we are seeing at present,” he said.
“What we foresaw was the timing of the peak of the second wave. We got that spot on. What we did not get on target was the height of the second peak. We expected the cases to peak out at 1.2 lakh,” said Prof Vidyasagar.
Meanwhile, according to Dr Ashish Jha, what is more worrying today is the impact on mathematical models and data because there is a fear that much of the data is underreported.
“There is a dramatic undercounting of data on infections. My estimates say the data could be 5-10 times as much and a similar number of deaths. This poses challenges for any estimates we do,” said Dr Jha.
Agreeing with him, Dr Gautam Menon said the test positivity rate in India is 20 per cent. “That’s very high. We have seen this in Uttar Pradesh and many states that people are unable to test due to lack of test kits or there is too much of a lag. This can mess up the numbers.”
“All models are wrong, but some models are useful,” said Dr Jameel, a noted virologist. “It really depends on the data you use for making a model. If you don’t test enough, report daily cases, daily deaths properly, then it is very difficult to make an accurate model. All models depend on the assumptions you make,” he said.
Dr Jameel reasoned that India’s natural death rate is 7.2 deaths per 1,000 people per year. This roughly translates to 27,000-28,000 deaths per day across the country.
“This is the baseline. If only 3,000 people were dying of Covid-19 per day, it would barely add about 12 per cent to the baseline. You would hardly notice it at the crematoria and burial grounds. What does that tell you? The deaths are being hugely undercounted, so are the cases. Unless good numbers go into models, you won’t have good models of the type that count,” said Dr Jameel.