Lockdown saved lives of 8K to 32K people: Report

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Published on May 28, 2020 11:55 PM IST
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By, Mumbai

Analysis based on INDSCI-SIM, the first India-specific epidemiological model developed by the Indian Scientists’ Response to Covid-19 (ISRC), estimates that approximately 8,000 to 32,000 Indians averted death between April 3 and May 15 because of a combination of factors that include lockdown restrictions, increased testing, quarantine and physical distancing.

ISRC is a group of more than 500 Indian scientists, engineers, doctors, technologists and public health researchers. It aims to provide accurate, science-based resources pertaining to the pandemic while also dispelling misinformation.

A Niti Aayog report dated May 22 estimated that between 37,000 to 2.10 lakh Indians had evaded being infected by Covid-19. ISRC’s analysis arrived at a lower figure — between 8,000 to 32,000 — for this group. “Our mathematical model shows fewer Indians have been saved as compared to claims made in other reports, which is tough to crosscheck since we, unfortunately, have no idea of the technique used to arrive at those numbers. Ours is a more conservative estimate, and our method is documented,” said professor Bhalchandra Pujari of Savitribai Phule Pune University, who was part of the team that developed the INDSCI-SIM model.

Scientists also said a large number of individuals infected with the Sars-Cov-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, have escaped detection. Dividing the population into six age groups with different infection and fatality rates, the model shows that those above 60 years of age form the major chunk of hospitalisations for and death from Covid-19. However, most Covid-positive cases are among people between 0 and 40 years of age, who are less likely to die of the infection.

“In order to match the death timeline, our model indicates much higher infections than reported. This is however understandable, given most people are either asymptomatic or suffer from mild infections along with cases of death, all of which can go undetected,” said Pujari.

Epidemiologist Dr Giridhar Babu, who is not involved with ISRC, said globally, new evidence suggests only clusters are important in the long run since on an average, 10% of a population have caused 80% of infections. “We need to prevent clusters from being formed. Gathering of more than two people should be banned as well as weddings, marathons, work space arrangements, or any large gatherings for the next three to four months. That will either lead to postponing or even flattening the curve. If we enforce cluster prevention strictly along with using masks and maintaining physical distance, we can continue with whatever gains we made,” said Babu.

The ISRC team said a spike in the number of new Covid-positive cases is expected around August if current lockdown strategies are maintained, which would help keep the infection rate, or R0 (referring to the number of people infected by one Covid-positive individual), low. However, if there is a return to pre-lockdown conditions, a sharp spike is expected around mid-July.

However, individual states and cities should work out their respective estimation to better plan measures to contain the epidemic.

“The point of postponing the peak was to prepare the health infrastructure, which has been done. So health systems will be able cater to what is likely to be expected unless it goes beyond it,” said Babu. “States will peak at different times. Preventing clusters is the key, and how it will be done will define a state’s success.”


    Snehal Fernandes is senior assistant editor at Hindustan Times, Mumbai. She writes on science and technology, environment, sustainable development, climate change, and nuclear energy. In 2012, she was awarded ‘The Press Club Award for Excellence in Journalism’ (Political category) for reports on Goa mining scam. Prior to HT, she wrote on education and transport at the Indian Express.

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