People giving swab samples at Civil Hospital as testing for Covid-19 increases due to a spike in cases around NCR, in Gurugram, India on February 28, 2021. (HT PHOTO)
People giving swab samples at Civil Hospital as testing for Covid-19 increases due to a spike in cases around NCR, in Gurugram, India on February 28, 2021. (HT PHOTO)

India Covid-19 cases may rise as summer will force people indoors: Expert

The warning came from Toronto-based Prabhat Jha, epidemiologist at University of Toronto’s Unity Health St Michael Hospital and executive director of Centre for Global Health Research
By Anirudh Bhattacharyya I Edited by Nadim Siraj
UPDATED ON MAR 01, 2021 12:51 PM IST

A top Canada-based epidemiologist has cautioned India to guard against a possible surge in coronavirus cases in the months ahead as the summer forces people indoors.

The warning came from Toronto-based Prabhat Jha, epidemiologist at the University of Toronto’s Unity Health St Michael Hospital and executive director of the Centre for Global Health Research.

Jha is also the lead investigator in the Million Death Study conducted in India in collaboration with the Registrar General of India.

Jha told HT that the principal “element for transmission” is now considered to be “an indoor, closed, less ventilated space”.

Just as there was a winter peak in countries such as Canada as falling temperatures drove people indoors, a similar a phenomenon may be relevant to India in the context of the summer’s heat, the expert said.

More caution needs to be exercised during the months of May and June as temperatures rise, he said, adding, “The upward tick now seen in many states is a result of people being more lax with masks and indoor gatherings. This may get worse with summer heat.”

Jha and his research team are working on a study looking at the possible causes behind the decrease in cases in countries such as India. He said the “most probable” reason for this trend was that “a large number (of people) are already infected”.

As per data from 18 large Indian cities covering a population of nearly 110 million, between 50-60% of adults are already infected. He said the trajectory in India has been “atypical” as nearly 75% of cases have been asymptomatic - directly opposite to the trend in the West.

Jha cited the inching up of daily cases in India, particularly in Mumbai, as a cause for concern.

He said the relatively low mortality rates in India so far could be attributed not just to fewer infections, but also factors like “hyper-stimulation of the immune system” due to multiple reasons, such as the population being exposed to other coronaviruses in the past, and the prevalence of diseases such as measles.

“But we have to be very careful,” cautioned Jha, referring to a gradual increase in infection rates over the past few days.

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