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Friday, October 23, 2020

Explained: Did travellers from Dubai and UK first spread Covid-19 in India?

The researchers assessed 1,386 Covid-19 patients between January 30 and April 6, tracking their travel history, state of residence and source of infection.

Written by Gagandeep Singh Dhillon , Edited by Explained Desk | Shimla | Updated: September 29, 2020 7:04:39 am
Spread of covid 19 india, international travel covid 19 india, which country exported most Covid cases to india, UK Dubai Covid 19, IIT Mandi research, coronavirus research, express explained, indian expressThe largest number of contacts established from different countries was in Kerala. (Photo: AP)

A study by researchers at IIT Mandi has found that Dubai and UK played the most crucial part in spreading Covid-19 in India during the initial phase of the pandemic. The research used statistical tools and methods to analyse the travel history of infected patients.

Published in Journal of Travel Medicine, the study, titled ‘Tracking the spread of Covid-19 in India via social networks in the early phase of the pandemic’, was carried out by Assistant Professor Sarita Azad and her student Sushma Devi.


The researchers used to obtain the travel history, state of residence and source of infection of Covid patients reported from January 30, when India recorded its first case, to April 6. A total of 1,386 cases from this period were assessed.

This data was then used for a social network analysis (SNA). In mathematics, social network analysis refers to the mapping and measuring of connections between people or other entities. The nodes, or units, in the network are the people or groups, and the links show the flows between the nodes. The lines connecting the nodes are called ‘edges’.

In this study, the social networks were generated via Gephi software, which uses an algorithmic method called the Louvain method.

Researchers then inferred these networks through statistical parameters such as degree, modularity and centrality.

“We tracked the spread of COVID-19 and its diffusion from the global to national level and identified a few super spreaders who played a central role in the transmission of the disease in India,” Azad told PTI.

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What did the researchers find?

Most of the infected patients came to India from Dubai and the UK during the time period of the study. People from the UK travelled to 18 different states, and those from Dubai travelled to 15 states. The largest number of international contacts from different countries was established in Kerala.

The SNA showed that the UK and Dubai were the “main sources of Covid-19 importations into India”. The researchers concluded that the highest links were established in various Indian states from these two countries, and they were the main “diffusion points”.

Dubai had the highest eigenvector centrality, which means it occupies the most influential place in the social network. On the other hand, more clusters of the disease were formed within India from the UK as compared with Dubai.

The spread of Covid within India

The study also concluded that the modularity class of states such as Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and others linked to the religious congregation in Nizamuddin in Delhi was low, indicating that infected cases from these areas played less of a role in spreading the disease outside their communities.

On the other hand, states such as Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Kerala, Jammu & Kashmir and Karnataka played a significant role in local transmission, and some of them caused interstate transfer too.

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