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Covid cases could rise again in Oct-Nov but won’t go beyond 1.5 lakh/day, expert panel says

National Covid-19 Supermodel Committee head Prof. M. Vidyasagar says the projections, based on SUTRA model, have not been shared with the central govt yet.

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New Delhi: Covid-19 cases could start rising again between October and November, said the chief of the government-appointed National Covid-19 Supermodel Committee, which makes projections on the likely spread of the pandemic.

Professor M. Vidyasagar of IIT Hyderabad, who heads the three-member committee, told ThePrint that cases could drop to about 20,000 per day nationally by August 20. “But we are more concerned about the peak of 1.5 lakh infections per day,” he said.

The expected rise in cases, however, would not be near to the surge witnessed in the second wave when India reported over 4 lakh infections per day, he clarified. “Even if we take a pessimistic view, we do not foresee cases rising beyond 1.5 lakh per day,” he said.

The time of the next surge may be between 9 October and 28 November. The panel’s previous forecast in May had also emphasised that the next wave may not have the impact of the second wave, if the pace of vaccination drive increases.

“If there is a new variant that is still more infectious than Delta or Delta-plus, we will revise these forecasts. This is what we see as of now,” Prof Vidyasagar said.

According to the scientist, the panel — it includes Prof Manindra Agrawal of IIT Kanpur and Lt Gen Madhuri Kanitkar, deputy chief of the Army Medical Service — has made these projections based on the SUTRA model.

SUTRA stands for Susceptible, Undetected, Tested (positive) and Removed Approach.

Prof Vidyasagar, however, clarified that the findings have not yet been shared with the central government. “We have not yet made any formal presentation to any government agency, but as and when we get such an opportunity, we plan to present the projections.”

He also clarified that the study was not sponsored by the central government. The committee helps the central government to make projections about the spatial and temporal spread of the pandemic.

Also read: Told Modi govt in March second Covid wave afoot, expect peak in mid-May: Expert panel chief

No let-up in increase of cases in Kerala, Maharashtra

Prof Vidyasagar told ThePrint that even if cases across India dip to 25,000, the major concern is that cases in both Kerala and Maharashtra are staying at very high levels, and “may not dip”.

“If we look at the all-India statistics, we can see that Kerala’s cases are very high. I don’t know why this is so,” he said.

On 6 July, Kerala had 14,373 cases out of 43,965 cases in all of India, he noted. “It has been so for many days now, with both Maharashtra and Kerala being at number 1 and number 2 in daily cases.”

Earlier findings

By the end of May, the panel using the SUTRA model had forecast that India would see about 1.5 lakh cases per day and by the end of June, the number would be 20,000 cases on a daily basis.

In May, Prof Vidyasagar had warned that a third wave of the pandemic could hit the country after about six to eight months — which meant November to January.

“If you check the SUTRA model, you will see that we project nationwide cases reducing to around 15,000 by 1 July,” he had said while adding “that can be thought of as the end of the second wave”.

They predicted 6-8 months based on an Italian study that showed Covid-19 antibodies (in Italian patients) last in the body for those many months.

“So we can expect that the current group of Indians who have been exposed to Covid (both the detected and undetected) will retain their immunities until between November and January,” he had earlier said.

Also read: Doctors are tired, states must ready fresh workforce for 3rd wave, says top doctor Devi Shetty


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