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One coronavirus patient infects 1.7 people in India, much lower than in China, Italy: Study

Study by Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai explains slow spread of COVID-19 cases in India, but there is still no clarity on reasons for low reproduction number.

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New Delhi: In India, each person infected with COVID-19 is passing the virus to only 1.7 people on an average, which is much lower than most countries, researchers have found.

This could account for the relatively slow increase in coronavirus patients in the country compared to Italy, Iran and US, which have witnessed unprecedented spread of the virus.

A study by scientists Soumya Easwaran and Sitabhra Sinha at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai has found that COVID-19 has an R0 — R-naught or reproduction number — of 1.7 in India, a report in The Indian Express said.

R-naught is the reproduction number of the disease that highlights the number of people a patient directly infects.

In China’s Wuhan city, where the first case of the novel coronavirus was reported, the R0 was 2.14. It was 2.73 in Iran and 2.34 in Italy.

When R0 for a disease is below one, it is unlikely to turn into an epidemic.

Also read: How to slow down COVID-19 — this is the only way to ‘flatten the curve’ of coronavirus spread

Figure is likely to change

However, the reason for a low R0 in India could not be immediately explained by the researchers.

“Right now, we do not know the exact reason for low R-naught. Maybe a week from now on, when the impacts of government measures start getting reflected in the data, we would have some idea,” Sinha told The Indian Express.

Moreover, the figure is likely to change in the coming days depending on whether the government measures to curb the spread of the disease prove to be successful.

The team believes that climatic conditions may play a role in the low reproduction number in India as the distance of a country from the equator might have a correlation with how fast the virus was spreading.

“If we plot the R0 numbers of other countries against the latitudes in which they are situated, India more or less fits into the curve,” Sinha said.

However, the team did not find any evidence that temperature plays a role in how fast COVID-19 spreads. Sinha said they are unable to explain the correlation between latitude and reproduction number as of now.

Research from other countries seems to suggest that higher temperatures and humidity can slow the spread of the virus.

A study by researchers from Spain, Portugal and Finland, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, found a significant correlation between climate conditions and outbreaks. They found that in extreme cold as well as in very hot and humid conditions the virus is “largely absent”.

Also read: Evidence emerging coronavirus could slow by summer with warmer temperature, humidity


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  1. As of 22nd march, there were only 15 thousand tests done in india, whereas countries like South Korea have done total 3 lakh 40 thousand tests with 10 thousand tests each day. So with the amount of testing kits, with the manual process of testing and with reckless discipline in government & in most of individuals, the detected carona positive cases are very less. Or it may be due to not showing up of symptoms in initial week. Or atlast it may be as said in document because of climatic conditions considering temperature and precipitation.

  2. Actual data is , a person in Punjab infected 7 members of his family; so either your calculation model is at fault or there is something wrong with data. Choice is of the institution to decide. More facts firstly they were saying that community transmission is not still there, but now persons who have no history of travel to affected countries or direct known contact with the affected person are positive for the same. In my humble opinion ramp up the testing as suggested by WHO, KINDLY make a start now hoping we have not lost precious time.

    • U are right sir.
      Actually the problem is here that there are no enough corona testing centre (almost 58 over the country).
      The reason is that people doesn’t know that they are infected from corona virus. They are kept in isolation for many days and their test reports come after their death.

  3. A nation of 1 billion people is just doing 500 tests in a day. That’s shameful honestly. Your RO figure of 1.7 is actually 3.4 – 3.8.

    India will never give the actual number of deaths. They are going to fool all of us. Thankfully, if we register low number of deaths it will be because there is nothing left for a virus to kill in a morally corrupt nation

    • Oh I see !!! The virus doesn’t kill the morally corrupt. Hurray…we have found the vaccine.Let us all be morally corrupt.

  4. The percentages of testings happening for Covid-19 is much less than testings happening in other countries. So this can be one of the reasons that the identification of how many people are actually affected with this virus is less. you cannot conclude any false claims.

  5. The reason why the spread is lower in India is because the percentage of people that do handshake in India when we greet people is much lower as compared to other countries where they even hug when they greet people. The lack of awareness and ignorance of a disease exists in all countries but the chances of spread are much lower in India because of this customary inadvertent greeting practice in India. The spread is much lower in woman than in men is because of cosmetics that women use than men before stepping outside home. The chemicals in it could possibly be preventing woman from getting the infection easily during a greeting handshake. May be women got the infection only when they were closer to victims that were coughing.

  6. You need to also mention the low testing rates in India. 5 per million? The testing criteria rule out testing for community infections . This study , the way you hav reported, seems to have ignored that and then drawn conclusions.
    You are a responsible media house. While you should not create panic, neither should you put out articles that may lull people into a false sense of complacency.

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