Covid-19 peak over; pandemic can be controlled by February 2021: Panel

New Delhi: COVID-19 infections in India peaked in the month of  September and if all precautions are followed properly then the pandemic can be controlled by February-end with minimal active symptomatic infections, a government-appointed committee stated.,

 The panel also claimed that the pandemic can be controlled by end of February 2021 with minimal active symptomatic cases if all protocols are followed and if the government does not relax activities further.

The ‘Covid-19 India National Supermodel’ committee led by Professor M Vidyasagar (IIT Hyderabad) made the finding in its study titled ‘Progression of the Covid-19 pandemic in India: Prognosis and Lockdown Impacts.

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“This of course is premised on the assumption that people would continue to take precautionary measures, at least to the same extent that they are currently doing. This is no reason to relax or lower our guard, especially with the festival season approaching. If we follow the physical distancing norms, and use face masks, at least in the manner we are doing right now, the model says that by February we would have things under control,” said Prof Manindra Agrawal of IIT Kanpur, who is part of the committee.

“The big worry, of course, is the upcoming festival season. We have to be careful. We have seen that there was a surge in cases in Kerala after the Onam festival. That is a lesson we must learn from,” he said.

The committee said that their modelling exercise had also shown that the lockdown, particularly its timing in the third week of March, had a significant impact in slowing the spread of the disease and preventing coronavirus-related deaths.

coronavirus

“Without a lockdown, the number of deaths in India would have overwhelmed the system within a very short timeframe, and would have eventually crossed 26 lakh fatalities. Imposing the lockdown in May would have reduced deaths to around 10 lakh. The prompt imposition of the lockdown on March 24 has resulted in deaths being around one lakh till date,” the committee said in a note.

Although the committee predicts that the ensuing festival and winter seasons may increase the susceptibility to infection, district and higher level lockdowns were not recommended any further.

The committee also said that the number of Covid-related deaths by August 2020 would have been over 25 lakh if there had been no lockdown at all and also that there would have been over 1.4 crore symptomatic infections by June 2020.

ICMR Senior scientist Nivedita Gupta said, "The number of tests has increased, on an average, we are testing more than 2.6 lakh of samples per day. We hope to see a further rise by the use of the antigen test"

Without a lockdown, the number of infections would have reached 140 lakh (1.4 crore) in June, the committee said. A late lockdown, in May, would have still seen cases reach 50 lakh in June. “In short, the lockdown flattened the curve,” the committee said.

Also, the committee found that the labour migration that happened immediately after the lockdown had a “minimal” impact in terms of spreading the infection in the population. “This observation indicates the success of quarantine strategies adopted for the returning migrants,” it said.

(With Inputs from Agency)

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