Pune | Updated: April 25, 2021 7:25:44 am
In the relentless second Covid surge marked by growing anxiety and anguish, there is one tentative glimmer: for the last few days, the case count in Maharashtra is showing signs of having peaked.
The state’s daily Covid count has remained in the 60,000s for the last two weeks now, the longest period of relative stability since the start of the second wave in the middle of February.
But more significantly, in the last two weeks, the state has also seen its transmission rate decline substantially, from a high of 1.38 in the middle of February to 1.13 now, according to analysis by a team of scientists led by Sitabhra Sinha at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai.
Transmission rate, also referred to as reproductive number, or simply R, is an estimate of the number of people being infected by an already-infected person. For example, an R of 1.38 means that every group of 100 infected people is passing on the disease to about 138 more.
The value, calculated through mathematical modelling, is a measure of how fast the disease is spreading in the population. A lower R means a slowdown.
The R value for Maharashtra, as calculated by Sinha’s team, was 1.34 for the period March 10-March 25, 1.24 for the period March 30-April 8, and 1.13 for the period April 7-April 20.
In comparison, the R-value for India as a whole has remained around 1.31 for a prolonged two-month period now. Sinha said that Maharashtra growth curve seemed to have reached a peak and could begin to bend in a few days.
He said even more encouraging was the fact that the R-value for Mumbai had gone below 1 in the last week. A value of less than R means every group of 100 people are infecting less than 100 on an average. This would result in a decline.
Indeed, the daily case count in Mumbai has been declining steadily for the last two weeks. On Saturday, Mumbai reported 5,867 new infections, the lowest this month.
Pune, the other city which had been powering the rise in cases in Maharashtra, is also showing signs of a decline, though not as strongly as Mumbai.
Pune, the city with the second highest caseload in India, after Delhi, reported 10,025 new cases Saturday. The city’s highest ever case count was recorded a week earlier, on April 17, when 12,825 cases had been detected.
Sinha warned that these were still early days and it was possible for the trend for Maharashtra to reverse, as had happened in the case of Punjab. Until three weeks ago, Punjab was giving strong indications of slowing down, and its cases numbers had also declined, but the R-value for the state has shot up again in the last ten-day period. On Friday, Punjab recorded 6,728 new cases, its highest ever.
Still, scientists are banking on Maharashtra to be the first state to start seeing a bending of the curve. It was the first state to accelerate in the second wave, and its numbers grew at pretty fast rate during March.
A slowdown in Maharashtra would have a bearing on India’s growth curve as well, despite the fact that its disproportionate influence on the national numbers has declined in the last three weeks. Until March, Maharashtra was contributing almost 60 per cent of India’s cases.
It has now come down to 20 per cent, as several other states, like Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, and Chhattisgarh, began reporting record number of cases.
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