How many people can one coronavirus patient infect after the lockdown is lifted? By how much can that number vary if the patient chooses to travel within their own city or intercity and does the number vary depending on the mode of transport chosen?
These and such post-lockdown scenarios are what a team of Indian scientists are hoping to figure out by developing a mathematical model for epidemics, which can be tweaked to suit the current scenario.
Leading the team of scientists on this project are two researchers from the Savitribai Phule Pune University’s Centre for Modeling & Simulation (CMS) — Dr Bhalchandra Pujari and Dr Snehal Shekatkar.
The SPPU scientists have been invited to lead modeling efforts of pan-India scientists, as a part of Indian scientists’ response to COVID-19.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Dr Pujari said that he and his colleague had been working on a mathematical model for epidemics even before the lockdown was announced. More specifically, the two scientists have developed a mathematical model to predict the spread of the disease among cities across India by investigating transport links among them.
“Our work was well received by the Indian scientific community and a group has been formed of India scientists called ‘Indian scientists’ response to COVID-19′,” he said.
While some of the 300-odd sceintists and researchers are working on virology, some are working on awareness, and so on.
“A small group of mathematicians from the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, which was working on mathematical model, invited us to collaborate with them to develop new models to predict post-lockdown scenarios,” explained Dr Pujari.
Speaking about their study, which found out that it was necessary to shut down the transport network for effective measures, he said, “So, mathematical models on epidemics have been around for a long time. But what we did was we studied the transport network of the entire country and connected 320 cities to each other through air, rail and road network. Based on this, we can start studying what happens if two infected persons start the journey from City A and travel to City B, what is the likely outcome on the spread of the virus? Also, depending on the mode of transport, variables change. Since exact passenger datas are not available, at best these are variable models based on simulation, but they do give a generic idea.”
Dr Pujari said the model that they eventually develop is being designed to suit any epidemic scenario, focusing on a long-term modeling framework that can predict the spread of any future epidemic other than COVID-19. However, he also added that the team understands the need for such a tool at the present moment, and hence it is preparing to present some findings in the coming days.
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