Funeral pyres of Covid-19 fatalities burn during a mass cremation at a crematorium in New Delhi, India, on Friday. (Bloomberg)
Funeral pyres of Covid-19 fatalities burn during a mass cremation at a crematorium in New Delhi, India, on Friday. (Bloomberg)

India may see 1.02mn Covid deaths by August 1: US-based body

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan has said the pandemic is “raging out of control” in India
By Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
UPDATED ON MAY 03, 2021 11:30 PM IST

A leading US-based global health research body has projected 1.02 million cumulative deaths from Covid-19 in India by August 1, with 630,000 additional fatalities from April 26, unless “drastic measures” were taken. The previous projection by this institute for the same end date was 960,000.

The deadly disease crossed another grim milestone last week, becoming the No 1 killer in the country, going up by 78%.

A top official of the Biden administration, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, told ABC news on Sunday the pandemic is “raging out of control” in India. Even as the United States has rushed assistance worth $100 million, it has also announced restrictions on travel from India starting on Tuesday. It bars everyone but US citizens, green card holders, students joining colleges and universities and, certain academics and professionals.

“Without drastic measures to bolster the health system to deal with this onslaught, decreased social mixing, and increased effective face mask use, the situation currently looks quite grim for India,” said an updated country-specific policy briefing from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), a widely regarded independent research wing of the University of Washington based in Seattle.

“IHME’s reference scenario forecasts 1,019,000 Covid-19 deaths in India by August 1, 2021,” it added. The forecast is based on data from April 25 to 30. In the worst case, cumulative deaths could go as high as 1.22 million.

The fatalities can be reduced. “If universal mask coverage (95%) were attained in the next week, our model projects 73,000 fewer cumulative deaths compared to the reference scenario by August 1,” IHME said.

IHME says its projection is based on “what we think is most likely to happen: vaccines are distributed at the expected pace; governments adapt their response by re-imposing social distancing mandates depending on the number of cases per million: how the variants are spreading; and in one-quarter of those vaccinated, mobility increases toward pre-Covid-19 levels.

The research body’s projected toll for India is way past the other countries hits the hardest by the pandemic currently: the United States could see its fatalities rise to 598,882 by August 1; 575,635 in Brazil; 151,000 in the United Kingdom and 234,000 in Mexico.

IHME also forecast daily deaths in India will peak at 12,000 on May 20, pushing forward previous peak day of May 16.

Last week, the policy briefing noted, was perhaps the deadliest overall. The estimated daily deaths in the last week increased to 4,800 per day on average compared to 2,700 the week before, IHME said, adding, this spike made Covid-19 “the number 1 cause of death in India last week”.

Ischemic heart disease was at second position with 29,214; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was third with 17,278; stroke was fourth with 13,444; and diarrheal diseases together were fifth with 12,160 fatalities.

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