While the focus remains on four states with the highest caseload in the country, new IIT Bombay research in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) finds that Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have the most districts with high epidemiological risk. This risk value takes into account social vulnerability as well as case load.
The risk mapping highlights zones that may require extra attention because of livelihood weaknesses, even if caseload is not as daunting. Twelve districts in Rajasthan and 14 in Uttar Pradesh have less than 100 cases as of April 22, but are in the top 100 districts with the highest epidemiological risk.
The model takes into account not just case prevalence, but also prevalence in neighbouring districts as of April 28. The risk score also includes social indicators from the 2011 Census such as elderly population, disabled population, percentage of households with no drainage or latrine, and areas with no nearby drinking water, electricity, or medical facility.
“Well-being is an important aspect of epidemiological risk. Take, for example, a marginalised worker and those without a fixed job. If one doesn’t have sufficient money, they will not listen to government directions. These may not always directly influence epidemic spread, but could indirectly influence the harm,” said Subhankar Karmakar, professor of environmental science and engineering at IIT Bombay.
The pilot model is part of a “Collaboration for Multi-model Analysis of Infectious Disease”. The five research groups took direction from ICMR’s Tarun Bhatnagar, in charge of the agency’s research studies.
The model found that while Uttar Pradesh’s Kanshi Ram Nagar only had three cases as of April 22, it was in top 15 epidemiological risk scores because of high social vulnerability. Similarly, Ajmer in Rajasthan had 23 cases as of April 22 but was in the top 30 epidemiological risk scores.
Also, even though districts in Odisha and Jharkhand have less cases, they are in the top half of epidemiological risk because of low social indicators.
On the other hand, even though Tamil Nadu and Gujarat do not show districts with an average high social vulnerability, they are at high risk because of high case prevalence.