They have also projected that the total number of cases worldwide would be between 20 crore and 60 crore by “spring 2021” (March-May) in the absence of a treatment.
New Delhi, July 8:
India might witness the worst of the coronavirus pandemic early next year if a vaccine remains elusive. Based on a recent study on testing and case data of 84 countries, comprising 60 per cent of the world population, researchers of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have predicted that India might record 2.87 lakh coronavirus cases per day by February 2021.
Researchers Hazhir Rahmandad, TY Lim and John Sterman of MIT’s Sloan School of Management used the SEIR (Susceptible, Exposed, Infectious, Recovered) model, a standard mathematical model for infectious diseases used by epidemiologists, for their analysis. They have also projected that the total number of cases worldwide would be between 20 crore and 60 crore by “spring 2021” (March-May) in the absence of a treatment.
According to the study, India will be the worst affected country due to coronavirus, followed by the United States (95,000 cases per day), South Africa (21,000 cases per day) and Iran (17,000 cases per day) by the end of February 2021.
The study takes into account three scenarios: (1) current testing rates and their response, (2) if testing increases by 0.1 per cent per day from July 1, 2020, and (3) if testing remains at current levels but contact rate to perceived risk is set to 8 (i.e. if one infected person can infect eight people).
The model shows the importance of early and aggressive testing in containing the spread of Covid-19 as cases grow exponentially, implying that delay in testing or less testing could be fatal to a more significant proportion of the population.
For the first scenario, the model has predicted that cases would rise to 1.55 billion in 84 countries. But if these countries increase testing by 0.1 per cent per day, then cases would rise to 1.37 billion as per the second scenario.
“Both these scenarios project a very large burden of new cases in the fall (September-November) 2020, with hundreds of millions of cases concentrated in a few countries estimated to have insufficient responses given perceived risks (primarily India, but also Bangladesh, Pakistan, and USA). In contrast, changes in response policies would make a major difference,” the study says.
Again, if testing rates remain at the current level, but the contact rate is set to 8, then the projection shows a drastic decline in cases and fatalities. As per the third scenario, total cases worldwide would then be up to 60 crore.
The projections for India present a gloomy picture. The study shows that countries responding poorly to the perceived risk are more likely to face severe challenges. It also says that future outcomes are less dependent on testing and more contingent on the willingness of communities and governments to reduce transmission.
The MIT research further reveals that Covid-19 infection and death data is significantly under-reported worldwide. “We estimate total infections at 8.85 crore, and 6 lakh deaths by June 18 2020 – 11.8 and 1.48 times larger than reported numbers respectively,” it said.
According to Johns Hopkins University, as of June 18, the official number of coronavirus cases globally was 8.24 million and that of deaths was 4,54,610.