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Covid forecasters warn that deaths in India could double in the coming weeks



The coronavirus wave that plunged India into the world’s biggest health crisis has the potential to worsen in the coming weeks, with some research models predicting that the death toll could double more than current levels.

Team c The Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore is using a mathematical model to predict about 404,000 deaths by June 11 if current trends continue. Model from The Institute for Health Indicators and Assessments at the University of Washington predicts 1,018,879 deaths by the end of July.

While cases of coronavirus can be difficult to predict, especially in a sprawling country like India, the projections reflect India̵

7;s urgent need to strengthen public health measures such as testing and social distancing. Even if the worst case scenario is avoided, India could suffer the world’s largest number of Covid-19 casualties. The United States currently has the largest number deaths about 578,000.

Volunteer ambulances of the United Sikhs in New Delhi (Stills)

People carry the body of a deceased Covid-19 patient at a crematorium in New Delhi on May 4. Photographer Sumit Dayal / Bloomberg

India reported a record 3,780 deaths on Wednesday for a total of 226,188, along with 382,315 new cases, with an outbreak of 20.6 million infections. In recent weeks, scenes on the ground, with long queues in front of crematoria and hospitals diverting ambulances, have painted a picture of a nation gripped by the crisis.

“The next four to six weeks will be very, very difficult for India,” said Ashish Ja, dean of Brown University School of Public Health. “The challenge will be to do things now that will ensure that it is four weeks, not six or eight, and that we will minimize how bad things will get. But India is by no means close to the forest. “

A health ministry spokesman could not be found immediately. The ministry said Monday that in about a dozen states, including Delhi, Chatisgarh and Maharashtra, there are early signs that the number of daily new infections is starting to plateau.

The Indian rupee fell about 1% this quarter in its worst performance in Asia as investors were cautious ahead of an unplanned speech by the governor of India’s central bank on Wednesday. The S&P BSE Sensex benchmark fell by about 2% as foreign funds sold about $ 1.7 billion in government shares.

Economic impact

The protracted crisis has the potential to sink the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as well as India’s slow or reverse recovery from last year’s economic recession. Bloomberg Economics lowered its growth forecast for the year ending March 2022 to 10.7% from 12.6%, and even those figures were flattered by the low base as a basis for activity to a halt due to a severe blockade last year.

A key concern for public health researchers is the relative inadequacy of coronavirus tests, which many scientists say causes a sharp decline in cases.

Life with Covid-19 in the interior of Uttar Pradesh

On May 4, a health worker picked up a tampon at the Covid-19 test site in Uttar Pradesh.

Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee / Bloomberg

“Honestly, it can get a lot worse, which is hard to imagine, given how striking the impacts have been when you see 400,000 new cases every day and know it’s probably an understatement,” said Jennifer Nutso, senior. scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, Maryland.

The main indicator that officials observe is the degree of positivity of the test, which is the percentage of people with positive test results. The overall positivity rate in India is now 20%, and in some parts of the country it reaches 40%, a shockingly high number indicating that three-quarters of infections have been missed, Ja said.

The World Health Organization considers anything above 5% too high, saying governments must implement measures to socially distance themselves until levels of positivity are below that level for at least two weeks.

“Despite a significant increase in tests, this is still not enough to catch all infected people,” Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the World Health Organization, told Bloomberg TV. “So the numbers, while very high, are probably underestimating the true number of infections,” she said. “It’s a grim situation.”

WATCH: Adeeba Kamarulzaman, a newly appointed member of the WHO Scientific Council, discusses the coronavirus pandemic and the introduction of the vaccine.

Social distancing

The aim is to perform enough tests so that a large number of infected people are not diagnosed. If only the sickest patients are examined, many people with a mild illness or no symptoms may continue to spread the disease involuntarily.

“There have been reports that tests are significantly delayed and that patients are delayed in having to go to the hospital as long as they can, given the stress on the health system,” said Gautam Menon, a professor of physics and biology at Ashoka University who also works on modeling. outbreaks. “We don’t know enough about COVID-19, far from the big cities, in the province of India, although reports from there show that the situation is terrible.”

The US government, as part of a supply package to India, promised last week to send one million rapid tests to India. There are a few other things that could be done quickly to try to help contain the outbreak. High on the list is the wearing of masks, a key element in disease control, said Catherine Blish, an infectious disease specialist and global health expert at Stanford Medicine in California.

Major cities in India already require people to wear masks, but such rules can be more difficult to enforce in crowded slums and rural areas. Several countries have imposed blockades, although Modi has done so opposed a national effort after it imposed a humanitarian crisis last year with migrant workers fleeing cities and in some cases carrying the virus with them.

WATCH: “Millions of Indians around the world, one of the world’s largest diasporas, are struggling to help their relatives abroad as Covid-19 ravages India.

Conclusions

The The Indian Institute of Science has estimated that with a 15-day blockade, deaths could be as low as 300,000, dropping to 285,000 with a 30-day lock. IMHE estimates a lower death toll of about 940,000 by the end of July with universal mask wearing.


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