Government on Covid-19 trends: This week is critical; virus spread could recede early May
The coming week holds the key to whether India will stay on course to enter the ‘steady phase’ of the COVID-19 pandemic by April 16. According to data available with the government, which has been discussed at the highest levels, India is currently in the ‘acceleration phase’ that has worsened on account of the spread traceable to the Delhi gathering of the Tablighi Jamaat.
Estimates drawn up by a top government data laboratory, which was shared with the empowered panel tasked with ensuring adequate medical equipment, forecast that at the current rate, the ‘ending phase’ of the spread in India should start from May 9.
However, the predictions — drawn up using Susceptible-Infectious-Recovered (SIR) modeling — have not fully taken into account the Tablighi Jamaat episode, where contacts and the extent of the spread of the infection are still being traced. The estimates are arrived at using domestic data as well as information from other affected nations, including China. They are then shared with the empowered committees tasked with tackling the pandemic.
Such estimates are critical in planning how the lockdown can be eased in the coming days.
The Tablighi Jamaat episode has increased unpredictability, but overall the data continues to indicate that India is so far on the right trajectory, and should be able to ease the 21-day lockdown once the acceleration stage gets over by mid-April.
The estimation model assumes that the current situation prevails with regard to the mingling of people and the recovery of infected individuals.
Detailed analysis of the spread of the virus is being carried out for eight of the worst-affected states, which could help the decision-makers take a call on how a gradual lifting of the lockdown could be carried out across the nation.
According to the data modeling, Delhi was expected to peak at close to 200 patients a day before witnessing a decrease after April 8. However, these estimates are now being revised after the Tablighi Jamaat episode.
If the current rate of infections and social distancing is maintained, Maharashtra — another badly affected state — could start showing encouraging trends from April 10. Other larger states such as Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Karnataka could see infections stabilizing by the end of the month.
Based on an analysis of global data, the information shared with the empowered committees suggests that a rise in temperature could help slow down the spread of the virus. But sources cautioned that the accuracy of the model would improve on a daily basis as more information comes through, and could change drastically as there are a large number of suspected cases that have not yet been confirmed positive.