New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government was informed that a second Covid-19 wave was “afoot” and expected to peak around the middle of May, ThePrint has learnt.
According to the head of National Covid-19 Supermodel Committee, M. Vidyasagar, professor at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Hyderabad, the panel gave “informal inputs starting around the first week of March, and gave a formal input on April 2nd”.
“We highlighted that a second wave is afoot, and that is expected to peak around the middle of May,” he told ThePrint, adding that “we highlighted that we were far more confident about the dates of the peak, rather than the values of the peak.”
“Therefore, any attempts to combat the second wave should pay-off in the short-term,” he said.
This comes at a time when the country is witnessing a critical situation with a rapidly increasing case burden sending hundreds to hospitals and morgues.
On Thursday alone, India reported 3.86 lakh new infections and 3,498 new deaths, data from the health ministry showed.
Such has been the quick increase that hospitals and medical centers have been struggling to ensure every patient receives critical care such as oxygen and medicines, while the government has struggled to keep pace in the national vaccination programme, with states complaining of shortages. The third phase of the vaccination programme, which makes everyone aged 18 and above eligible for the shots, is set to kick off on 1 May.
The three-member National Covid-19 Supermodel Committee was formed by the central government to make projections about the spatial and temporal spread of the pandemic. Apart from professor M. Vidyasagar, the panel includes professor Manindra Agrawal of IIT Kanpur, and Lt. Gen. Madhuri Kanitkar, deputy chief of Army Medical Services.
Second wave far bigger than expected
According to Prof. Vidyasagar, making specific policy suggestions is not within the panel’s mandate.
“When we made our report, we wanted to suggest that the primary emphasis must be on quick response,” he said. However, he added that “the second wave has been far bigger than what we had expected”.
“The peak values are much higher. However, the dates of the peak have not only proven to be accurate, but we have actually moved the dates of the peak forward to 3-5 May.”
While Vidyasagar believes that the government was never in denial about the second wave, he said, “I guess the government was also caught by surprise by the ferocity of the second wave.”
India likely to hit peak next week
According to the panel’s current projections, the seven-day moving average of daily cases is expected to peak by early next week, at around 4 lakh, give or take 20,000 cases.
“We do not directly estimate the number of deaths, but at current levels, the number of daily fatalities would be around 4,000,” he said.
“Please note that the case fatality ratio in the second wave is lower than in the first. That has been true in other countries as well,” he added.
In a tweet posted Thursday, fellow panel member Prof. Manindra Agrawal put out a prediction reiterating that the “peak value expected to be around 3.9 lakhs (sic)”.
“It is 7-day average value, so highest daily value may cross 4 lakhs … As predicted earlier, peak expected to arrive during May 4-8,” he said.
<Update on 29/4> @stellensatz Some good news about India from SUTRA's perspective. The trajectory has stabilized now and so I can switch back to predicting daily new infections instead of active infections. As predicted earlier, peak expected to arrive during May 4-8. pic.twitter.com/PzpWO6E95w
— Manindra Agrawal (@agrawalmanindra) April 29, 2021