Written by Alifiya Nalwala
The more the number of suspected coronavirus cases tested during a lockdown period, the shorter will be the actual lockdown period: this is an important finding of an epidemiological model developed by scientists as part of the Indian Scientists’ response to Covid (ISRC).
ISRC is an effort by a nation-wide group of leading scientists from various national research institutes and universities, who are working on strategies to combat the pandemic.
Leading the efforts in developing the mathematical modeling component of the work are two scientists, Dr Bhalchandra Pujari and Dr Snehal Shekatkar of the Centre for Modeling and Simulation, Savitribai Phule Pune University.
The duo, along with scientists from IMSc Chennai and IISc Bengaluru, developed INDSCI-SIM, an India-specific epidemiological model which uses mathematical calculations to present various scenarios and ways of dealing with them.
As the coronavirus pandemic has strained the healthcare system, mathematical modeling is a key component in developing effective strategies to tackle the problem.
Providing the most detailed approach to date, the model can be used to plan health resources and interventions at the city, district or state-level and allows comparison of the effects of different types of interventions like lockdowns, quarantining, and increased testings to alter the evolution of the pandemic.
Importantly, it can also be used to forecast healthcare-specific questions like the number of hospital beds and ICUs that must be kept ready.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Dr Shekhatkar said, “The existing mathematical models used three groups of people — infected, recovered and susceptible. We have divided it into nine sub–groups. Hence this model is more specific. According to me, an important finding of this model is that the more you test, the lesser the need for people to stay under lockdown.”
Giving an example, he said that before the lockdown, if 100 people were infected, on a regular day, if they went out and met 100 people, they could infect 20 hypothetically.
“Now, under the lockdown, since most movement has stopped, test as many people and communities as possible. Identify cases and hotspots and isolate. So, the more you test, the more you know and lesser is the need to extend lockdowns,” he said.
The model demonstrates that the extended lockdown implemented by the government has substantially reduced the spread of the virus and brought down the potential number of casualties, said Dr Pujari. “The model further provides the insight that lockdowns must be complemented with large-scale testings and quarantining of both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients to be truly effective. Apart from COVID-19, the group is looking forward to using this as a long-term process to make the country ready for any future epidemic,” he said.
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