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TIFR model predicts ‘difficult to manage’ 2nd wave if offices open up completely in Mumbai mid-Sept

The projection model has warned that if local trains are restarted by mid-September, it may lead to a ‘difficult to manage’ second wave. The model has advised staggering of office timings to avoid overcrowding in trains.

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai | September 5, 2020 2:11:01 am
mumbai covid-19, mumbai covid cases, mumbai offices, mumbai covid second wave, indian express newshe projection model has been shared with Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) (Representational)

A Covid-19 projection model by Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) has predicted a second wave of infections if the state decides to open up offices completely in Mumbai from mid-September.

The model states that if offices are allowed to function at 50 per cent capacity starting mid-September the total Covid cases in the city will stabilise at around 7-8 million cumulative infections by December or January 2021. The model has also advised that schools and colleges must be restarted only from January 2021 so as not to strain the health infrastructure.

The projection model has been shared with Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The model shows that if offices completely open up from mid-September it will lead to a big second wave with daily deaths rising from the existing 35 to 50, and daily hospitalisation requirement from 3,000 to 4,200. The fatalities and hospitalisations are predicted to be lower if offices resume at full strength from November 1.

“Our focus is at what point Mumbai can afford to open up. Whenever the city opens up there will be a second wave, but we wanted to project a reasonable time frame when opening up would not put pressure on the medical system,” said Ramprasad Saptharishi, from TIFR.

The simulation model factors reopening of local trains, offices, schools and protocol followed in containment zones. It predicts herd immunity to be attained by December or January next year when around 75 per cent are infected in slums and 50 per cent in non-slums. It further estimates deaths to stabilise at around 11,000-12,000 by March 2021 based on disease progression.

“We were surprised to find containment zone protocol as a better intervention to control cases than testing and contact tracing,” Saptharishi added.

Sandeep Juneja, Dean of School of Technology and Computer Science in TIFR, said containment zones should be continued although they affect economic cost by restricting movement of large number of people. “Too swift an opening may lead to a sudden increase in spread of infection and make second wave of hospitalisations difficult to handle,” he said.

The simulation model was prepared by Juneja, Saptharishi and Prahladh Harsha, all working with School of Technology and Computer Science. TIFR was also part of the first sero-survey in the city and is collaborating with BMC on a second survey. The first survey found 57 per cent in slums and 16 per cent in non-slums exposed to coronavirus.

The projection model has warned that if local trains are restarted by mid-September, it may lead to a ‘difficult to manage’ second wave. The model has advised staggering of office timings to avoid overcrowding in trains.

It has pointed that Mumbai can better handle its Covid-19 cases by putting off a full resumption of economic activities until November 1. In such a scenario, the model records a small second wave, rise in daily deaths from around 18 to 25, that can be handled with existing infrastructure.

“We are assuming reinfection in Covid-19 is negligible. If reinfection is more common, then our projection model changes,” Juneja said. So far Mumbai has officially recorded no cases of reinfection.

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