Coming soon: Indian National Supermodel to predict the future of coronavirus spread
The Indian government’s department of science and technology (DST) has begun work on the creation of a Covid -19 Indian National Supermodel which will forecast the coronavirus spread and also monitor the future transmission of infection with the aim to assist governments in decisions involving readiness of the national health systems and other mitigation measures.
An official statement from the ministry of science and technology on Saturday said that there was a need for a robust forecasting model for predicting the spread of the disease and for enhancing disease surveillance measures.
It added that while the government was monitoring and taking measures to control infectivity and mortality related to Sars-Cov-2, it was imperative to bring together the analytics harvested by the numerous mathematical models being developed for Covid-19 forecasting and surveillance with funding by DST-SERB (Science and Engineering Research Board) and other agencies.
“Inspired by India’s history of using mathematical models for disaster management planning of metrological events, DST has initiated this exercise to pool in expertise in the field and create one model for the entire country that will be subjected to rigorous tests required for evidence-based forecasting, routinely practiced in weather forecasting communities,” the statement says.
The announcement comes as India gallops towards another grim milestone of recording 200,000 positive cases of the disease with a tall of 173,763 cases on Saturday, and a new record being created on each of the past few days for the sharpest single-day spike in cases.
As per the statement the model in the works will rely only on the data that is relevant to Covid-19, and will also have a built-in component to adapt and learn from the newer data trends.
“It will aggregate successful evidence-based mathematical and statistical forecasting models and include the best predictive analytics for robust forecasting of infectious disease spread,” the statement adds.
The government of India has in the past used projections from some of these mathematical models to try and gauge the efficacy of several restrictive and containment measures taken by the government such as the lockdown and the testing strategy.
The statement says that the new supermodel could be useful not only for policymakers in India but also around the world for the purpose of overcoming difficulties in predicting the rate of spread of infection and the likely burden it will put on the healthcare sector, which in turn will help governments curb the epidemic.
The ministry says that Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) and IISc, Bangalore have been tasked to co-ordinate and work with all Covid-19 modeling projects and programs in the country.
“This will help develop a set of benchmarks to assess various models and to finally deliver the Covid-19 India National Supermodel. The Coordination team will consult and work with the research groups active in modeling, various software developers, and reputed companies to ensure delivery of a suitable user interface and software,” the statement added.
JNCASR and IISc will also work in close coordination with a consultative committee that will receive critical inputs on technical aggregation, guidance, and final delivery of a robust supermodel, the statement claims.
“Mathematical modeling and simulations for the spread of Covid-19 virus and its impact are not mere academic exercises but are critical needs for rational decision making, planning, and resource management. It is thus of vital importance that a robust National Model which is vetted by a large cross-section of the scientific community working in the area is developed,” said Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST.