By February-end of 2021, the global pandemic of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) — an epidemic in India — will have been controlled with minimal active symptomatic infections, a government-appointed committee has said, with the rider that all safety protocols have to be followed.
The union government had constituted the IIT Prof M Vidyasagar-led committee to evolve a national supermodel for Covid-19 progression in order to help the government make short-term and medium-term plans and decisions.
As part of its study “Progression of the Covid-19 pandemic in India: prognosis and lockdown impact”, the committee had to quantify the effects of lockdown, the impact of migrants returning home on the spread of the infection and economic optimisation. The findings have been published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research.
The committee concluded that India had already crossed its Covid-19 peak in mid-September. It said the country would record minimal active symptomatic infections by early next year if safety protocols are followed.
“If there was no lockdown, we would have had a peak that was 15 times higher in the middle of June, which would have been overwhelming. By enforcing the lockdown in March, we not only reduced the load on our system but also pushed the peak to September from the projected May-end,” said Vidyasagar. He added that with no lockdown, the pandemic would have led to a peak load of more than 140 lakh cases by June this year.
Although the committee predicts that the ensuing festival and winter seasons may increase the susceptibility to infection, it did not recommend district and higher level lockdowns any further.
“Relaxation in protective measures can lead to a significant rise of up to 26 lakh infections within a month. Existing personal safety protocols need to continue in full measure. Otherwise we will see a sharp rise in infections,” said Vidyasagar.
The committee asserted that the imposition of various safety protocols such as the wearing of masks and social distancing — together with a comprehensive lockdown — had allowed India to fare better than many other countries. “India has one-sixth of the world’s population (one-fifth excluding China), and one-sixth of the reported cases. However, India accounts for only 10% of the world’s deaths, and its case fatality rate of less than 2 pc is among the lowest in the world,” it said.
The committee has recommended that the existing personal safety protocols needed to continue in full measure, otherwise the country will see a sharp rise in infections. “Avoiding congestion especially in closed spaces and special care of those above 65 years and children is even more significant. Personnel with co-morbidities need to be extra cautious,” it said.
The committee will continue to work on many other issues concerning the current pandemic forecasting. It will also develop robust models for the future pandemics if any so that the decision-making processes are fast-tracked when the need arises without lag time.