The results of a new epidemiological modelling, released by researchers of IISER Kolkata on Tuesday, suggest that the novel coronavirus pandemic may keep growing in the coming weeks. The model predicts that the pandemic may show signs of receding only in early July if the effective rate of transmission of the disease can be kept low until then.
The IISER Kolkata model also indicates that if a national lockdown was not implemented, India could have faced a catastrophic pandemic, rivaling and probably exceeding the worst-hit nations.
The model indicates that had the first lockdown in India been implemented a month earlier, the current number of active infections would have been much lower. The researchers also find that had the lockdown been completely lifted on May 3, the disease would have spiked to very large numbers, which could have completely overwhelmed India’s healthcare infrastructure.
The model’s most likely scenario predicts that the number of active infections in India is poised to increase further and may only start decreasing after May 17. At its peak, there would be about 60,000 infected individuals with an upper range, considering the uncertainties, which may exceed one lakh cases.
“The model suggests that a significant number of infected individuals would still remain in the system on or around May 17 and they may spark another growth in the pandemic if they come in contact with population susceptible to the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” Professor Dibyendu Nandi, who led the research team, told The Indian Express.
Their modelling suggests that testing, contact tracing and quarantining of infected individuals and continuation of lockdown in hotspots may need to continue well into the monsoon season. “While the model predictions are purely from a scientific perspective, other perspectives also determine whether the lockdown can continue. Under the circumstances, the work of policy-makers is not easy, neither is it easy for the general public to accept a continued lockdown. Our aim was to explain the epidemiological perspective in a manner that makes it easy for the general public to understand the context in which these difficult choices have to be balanced” said Prof Nandi.
“I am happy to note the involvement of students in the creation of these resources, which include model and data analytics based assessment of the necessity and effectiveness of the national lockdown and predictions of the progression of the disease under various scenarios,” said Professor Sourav Pal, director of IISER Kolkata. These resources are available at: https://cessi.iiserkol.ac.in/coronavirus/.
The IISER team consisted of scientists Dibyendu Nandi, Ayan Banerjee, Rajesh Nayak, PhD students Shaonwita Pal, Soumyaranjan Dash, and undergraduate students Agnibha Banerjee and Vishal Singh.
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