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Millions to be infected with coronavirus in India by July, suggests report

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In the next months, as many as 100 million people in India are likely to contract the coronavirus infection, a report by Johns Hopkins University and Center for Diseases Dynamics, Economic and Policy (CDDEP) suggests. These numbers are expected to soar to around 300 million to 400 million by July, without interventions.

On March 26, Joint Secretary (Health) Lav Agarwal said that there was no proof of community transmission of coronavirus in India as yet, reiterating the government’s stance that the country has not yet entered ‘Stage-3’ of the COVID-19 transmission. However, contrary to this, the report noted that community transmission (Stage-3) of COVID-19 in India had most likely started in early March.

The report uses the IndiaSIM Model to arrive at the key conclusions pertaining to the spread of coronavirus in India. The key parameters used include the force of infection, age- and gender-specific infection rates, severe infection, and case-fatality rates.

Even as the number of cases in India has breached the 873-mark as on March 28, with the country under a 21-day lockdown, the report says, “A national lockdown is not productive and could cause serious economic damage, increase hunger and reduce the population resilience for handling the infection peak. Some states may see transmission increase only after another 2 weeks and lockdowns should be optimized for when they could maximize the effect on the epidemic but minimize economic damage.”

Also, it adds, “Border closures at this stage have little to no impact and add further economic disruption and panic. While international transmission was important in the first stage, domestic transmission is now far more relevant.”

The ventilator demand will most likely go up to 1 million even as the report pegs the current availability in India between 30,000 to 50,000 ventilators. Another factor that could further increase deaths in the general population is the mortality in healthcare workers, as per the report.

Hence, there is an urgent need to ensure an ample supply of personal protective equipment (i.e., masks and gowns) for healthcare workers. Without them, they get sick, further straining the capacity of the healthcare system to respond to the ongoing outbreak.

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