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‘Second Covid-19 wave to peak around mid-May’

TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on April 21, 2021

Rural areas may face severe devastation as they have poor healthcare facilities   -  PTI

Daily cases may exceed 3.5 lakh; virus more infectious than the first wave: IIT-K study

The second Covid-19 wave in the country is expected to peak around mid-May but by then the number of daily cases could exceed 3.5 lakh, according to a study by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT-K).

‘Mathematical modelling’

What is more alarming, according to this study, soon to be posted on pre-print server Medrxiv, is the fact that the infections have reached the rural areas during the second wave and this could cause untold devastation as these regions have poor healthcare infrastructure.

The mathematical modelling, carried out by a team of IIT-Kanpur scientists — Rajesh Ranjan of the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Mahendra K Verma and Aryan Sharma of the Department of Physics — took into account the number of Covid-19 cases reported till Tuesday, which were around 2.94 lakh.

Effective reproduction number, an indicator of how contagious an infectious disease is, has started going up again for most States since February 19, after being below 1 for nearly five months. Some of the most populous States such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal are showing very high reproduction number.

“This is very concerning as there is a large rural population in these States where the healthcare system is inadequate. With the spread of the virus in these remote and rural areas, an effective administrative intervention is required to minimise the impact of the pandemic,” the scientists said.

Reproduction number

At the beginning of the first wave in April last year, the reproduction number was 1.37, which went down to 1.09 on September 10 last year. It moved down to 0.9, for the first time below the self-sustaining threshold of 1, indicating that the pandemic was losing momentum.

For nearly five months, barring a minor flare-up for a couple of days in November, it remained below 1. But the reproduction number started going up again from February 19 and on April 20, it reached 1.37. A number of the States are reporting reproduction number of more than 1.5.

These include Odisha, Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal as well as Delhi. Reproduction is surprisingly low at 1.1 for Maharashtra, though it is reporting highest number of cases in the country.

According to the scientists, the data suggest that at present the virus is much more infectious than the first wave, but the number of daily deaths per infection is lower.

The current Case Fatality Rate (CFR) for the country is approximately 1.2 per cent. However, with an inordinate increase in the number of cases and an over-stretched healthcare system, the daily death count may increase substantially.

With rural areas impacted, it may be necessary to take aggressive lockdown measures to arrest the further spread while making sufficient amount of vaccine available, the researchers observed.

Published on April 21, 2021

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