As of now, no one knows the extent of the spread of the novel coronavirus in India. The country is currently in the stage of local transmission. However, its movement into the community transmission stage could have massive repercussions on the economy, its citizens and the country as a whole.
With the country on a 21-day lockdown, the move aims to prevent exactly that. By asking its citizens to isolate and practice social distancing, it is expected the spread of the coronavirus could be curbed.
However, at the same time, it is also imperative to be prepared for all scenarios. The current situation in virus hit countries like Spain, Italy and Iran have given an insight into how important it is to be prepared for the outbreak in advance. This provides crucial time to procure and stock medical supplies, set up an infrastructure to ensure availability of doctors etc.
An Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) does exactly that. The report estimates the impact of the novel coronavirus in India while at the same time providing a projection of cases in the country. The report states that "may be possible to interrupt the transmission of Covid-19 in India, but only in the most optimistic scenario". The study estimates 3 scenarios and predicts the number of cases that the country will have, while also estimating a time for its peak. The report was dated February 27 and all scenarios have been calculated with that reference point. The study titled “Prudent public health intervention strategies to control the coronavirus disease 2019 transmission in India: A mathematical model-based approach” provided the following insights. It focuses on airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru as the virus was initially spread via air passengers who came back to India from coronavirus-infected countries.
Hypothetical Optimistic Scenario for the Coronavirus Outbreak
A third scenario calculated by the research body paints a positive picture with a conservative estimate. In this scenario, the novel coronavirus outbreak is really low with just 200,000 cases in Delhi and that too in about 700 days from the start. However, this works on the assumption that half of the symptomatic patients are quarantined within the first 3 days. As you may have figured, we’ve already failed to do this. So the ship has probably sailed on this one.
Cities worst hit in this case would be Delhi with 1.5 million followed by Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru with 500,000 cases each. The peak of the coronavirus outbreak would be around 200 days from the start.
A dreadful scenario paints how symptomatic cases could be as high as 10 million in Delhi, and 4 million in Mumbai. The peak stated here is 50 days from February. That works around to be somewhere in March or mid-April, so I guess we’ll know soon enough whether that scenario could be a reality in the country.
Other Insights About The Coronavirus Outbreak
Apart from the scenarios based on mathematical modelling, the report had several other observations to share. The report stated that community transmission i.e. Stage 3 is inevitable in a country like India. However, by measures such as social distancing and early passenger screening at airports, the offset of the same could be delayed.
The prime minister, as well as several health professionals in the country, have repeatedly called for all its citizens to not rush to the hospitals at the first sign of symptoms. It is believed that only 5% of the cases require hospitalization, with as many as 80% of people infected by the virus not being impacted much. The study backs this claim. According to it, Home quarantine of symptomatic cases could reduce the overall expected number of cases by 62 per cent and the peak number of cases by 89 per cent
Some of the other insights advocated by the research were:-
- The country may see eight to ten severe and 40-50 non-severe COVID-19 cases for every death due to COVID-19
- In scenarios where a large number of passengers are isolated such as a cruise ship 26 per cent of the entire population may be infected and one in 450 infected individuals may die.
The research while conducted almost a month ago brings to light the gravity of the situation and the extent of the health emergency we are facing as a country today. Therefore, it is imperative to follow expert advice and government directives to ensure that these numbers aren’t as the damage and loss from the novel coronavirus isn’t as high as the numbers suggest.