The third wave of COVID-19 has hit India, with daily cases in the country back in the range of 1-1.5 lakh. Metro cities like Delhi and Mumbai are seeing a surge in infections, with cases doubling in 2-3 days time. The big question now is when will India and the metro cities reach the peak of this third wave.
According to M Vidyasagar, head of the National Covid-19 Supermodel Committee, cities like Delhi and Mumbai will peak in the next 7-10 days, while India may reach the bottom of the curve by the end of February.
In an exclusive interview with BusinessToday.In, Vidyasagar also said that case count is a wrong parameter to measure the severity of the third wave.
"Since this virus is just a week old in India, the consequence of this is that we can predict the timing of the peak with reasonable certainty but not the height of the peak. I expect cities like Mumbai and Delhi, where the cases are rising, to peak in next 7-10 days time and then cases will start coming down very sharply. But the number of cases, we can't predict now," he said.
According to Vidyasagar, a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Hyderabad, policy making on the basis of number of cases is wrong.
"Let's not panic even if cases go to 2 lakh, 6 lakh or even 8 lakh, that does not make any difference. Hypothetically, suppose if we have 8 lakh cases in a day but the hospitalisation rate is still 3-3.5 per cent, so the number of hopitalisations will be around 28,000, and as we know the average stay in the hospital has come down from 10 days to 5 days, so multiplying 28,000 into 5 days, we will have around 1.4 lakh people hospitalised at any given time. So that means total burden on the hospitals would be around 1.4 lakh, this is far less than what we had during second wave," he said.
He went on to add that hospitalisation rate, along with oxygen requirement, should drive policy making in the country. "So ideally it should be like when 25 per cent hospital beds are occupied, we should do something and when 50 per cent hospital beds are occupied we should take some more measures. These are the kind of modifications we need to make to decide when to take various steps," Vidyasagar added.
Vidyasagar had co-authored the government-backed SUTRA (Susceptible, Undetected, Tested (positive), and Removed Approach) Model, a mathematical model for pandemics, along with Manindra Agrawal of IIT Kanpur and Lt Gen Madhuri Kanitkar of Integrated Defense Staff.
Explaining the methodology of the model, Vidyasagar said that it estimates three quantities -- how fast the virus spreads, the extent to which a variant bypasses vaccine protection, and the extent to which it bypasses natural immunity.
"So, estimating the extent to which the virus bypasses the natural immunity is full of uncertainty, so here the number could be 30 per cent, 50 per cent, etc., we don't have enough data to estimate this number because this variant in India is a week old," he said.
However, he opined that each city will have a very sharp curve, though the timing would differ. When all these are added up together, the overall India curve will look more flat.
"As we know, the first wave took 20 weeks to peak, started around March, peaked in mid September and then started coming down, the second wave took around 8-10 weeks to peak, this time nationwide it might take 5-6 weeks to peak," he said.
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