Covid meteorologists warn that deaths in India could double in the coming weeks | India News
A team from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore used a mathematical model to predict that around 404,000 deaths will occur by June 11 if current trends continue. A model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington predicted 1,018,879 deaths by the end of July.
While coronavirus cases can be difficult to predict, particularly in a sprawling nation like India, the forecasts reflect the urgent need for India to step up public health measures such as testing and social distancing. Even if the worst estimates are avoided, India could suffer the highest death toll from Covid-19 in the world. The United States currently has the highest death toll at around 578,000.
India reported a record 3,780 deaths on Wednesday for an overall balance of 226,188, along with 382,315 new cases, pushing its outbreak beyond 20.6 million infections. In recent weeks, scenes on the ground, with long lines outside crematories and hospitals rejecting ambulances, have painted the picture of a nation overwhelmed by crisis.
“The next four to six weeks will be very, very difficult for India,” said Ashish Jha, dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University. “The challenge will be to do things now that make sure it’s four weeks, not six or eight, and that we minimize how bad things are going to get. But by no means is India anywhere close to being out of the woods. ”
A spokesperson for the Health Ministry could not be immediately located. The ministry said on Monday that in about a dozen states, including Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, there are early signs that the number of new daily infections is beginning to stabilize.
A protracted crisis has the potential to take a toll on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity, as well as delay or reverse India’s recovery from last year’s economic downturn. Bloomberg Economics lowered its growth projection for the year ending March 2022 to 10.7% from 12.6%, and even these numbers are favored by a low base as activity was halted due to a shutdown. strict last year.
Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of India announced new small business loan relief measures and promised to inject 500 billion rupees ($ 6.8 billion) of liquidity to support the economy.
For public health researchers, a key concern is the relative paucity of tests for coronavirus, which many scientists believe is causing a far lower count than the cases.
“It could honestly get a lot worse, which is hard to imagine given how staggering the impacts have already been when you see 400,000 new cases every day and you know that’s probably an underestimate,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, principal investigator at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, Maryland.
The main metric that officials are looking at is the test positivity rate, which is the percentage of people testing positive. The overall positivity rate is 20% in India now, and in some parts of the country it is over 40%, a surprisingly high number indicating that up to three-quarters of infections are missed, Jha said.
The World Health Organization considers anything above 5% too high, and says governments should implement social distancing measures until positivity rates are below that level for at least two weeks.
“Despite significantly increasing testing, it is still not enough to catch all infected people,” Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the World Health Organization, said on Bloomberg TV. “So the numbers, while very high, are probably an underestimate of the true numbers of infections,” he said. “It is a terrible situation.”
The goal is to do enough testing so that large numbers of infected people are not left undiagnosed. If only the sickest patients are tested, many people with milder disease or no symptoms may continue to spread the disease without knowing it.
“There are reports that tests are significantly delayed and patients delay going to the hospital as much as they can, given the stresses on the healthcare system,” said Gautam Menon, professor of physics and biology at Ashoka University, which also works on bud modeling. “We don’t know enough about the spread of Covid-19 outside of major cities, in the rural heart of India, although reports from there suggest that the situation is dire.”
The US government, as part of a supply package for India, pledged last week to send one million rapid tests to India. There are several other things that could be done quickly to try to stop the outbreak. At the top of the list is the use of masks, a crucial element in disease control, said Catherine Blish, an infectious disease specialist and global health expert at Stanford Medicine in California.
Major cities in India already require people to wear masks, but these rules can be more difficult to implement in crowded slums and rural areas. Several states have introduced blockades, although Modi has resisted a national effort after one imposed by him last year fueled a humanitarian crisis with migrant workers fleeing cities on foot and in some cases bringing the virus with them.
The Indian Institute of Science has estimated that with a 15-day confinement the deaths could be less than 300,000, falling to 285,000 with a 30-day confinement. IMHE estimates a lower death toll of around 940,000 at the end of July with the use of universal masks.
Vaccines will be the great way to eliminate risks, although it will take time to get there, public health experts say.
It takes several weeks for immunity to develop after someone has been vaccinated. The process is even longer with those that require two injections, extending the process from six weeks to two months.
“The vaccines are working,” said Kim Mulholland, an Australian pediatrician and group leader for infections and immunity at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne. “They just don’t have the capacity.”
Ultimately, cases will drop – it’s just a matter of when, said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Policy and Research at the University of Minnesota, and an advisor to US President Joe Biden. Scientists still don’t have a good understanding of why Covid-19 shows up in sudden changes, like a roller coaster, he said.
“Eventually it will burn itself through the population,” Osterholm said. “In several weeks to a month and a half, you will see this peak go down again, and it is likely to go down quickly.”