Half of Indians may catch Covid-19 by February 2021, states official estimate


Passengers wearing facemasks as a preventative measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus wait to board a bus in Mumbai on October 19, 2020. (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)
Passengers wearing facemasks as a preventative measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus wait to board a bus in Mumbai on October 19, 2020. (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)

A PANEL appointed by the Indian government has estimated that at least half of India’s 1.3 billion people are likely to have been infected with the new coronavirus by next February.



A member of a federal government committee, tasked with providing projections, on Monday(19) said that slowing the spread of the disease is the key now.

“Our mathematical model estimates that around 30 per cent of the population is currently infected and it could go up to 50 per cent by February,” said Manindra Agrawal, a professor at the Indian Institute for Technology in Kanpur and a committee member.

“We have evolved a new model which explicitly takes into account unreported cases, so we can divide infected people into two categories – reported cases and infections that do not get reported”.



India has so far reported 7.55 million cases of the coronavirus and is second only to the US in terms of total infections.

But Covid-19 infections are decreasing in India after a peak in mid-September, with 61,390 new cases reported on average each day, according to Reuters.

The committee’s estimate for the current spread of the virus is much higher than the federal government’s serological surveys, which showed that only around 14 per cent of the population had been infected, as of September.



But Agrawal said serological surveys might not be able to get sampling absolutely correct because of the sheer size of the population that they were surveying.

Instead, the committee of virologists, scientists and other experts, whose report was made public on Sunday(18), has relied on a mathematical model.

The committee warned that their projections would not hold up if precautions were not followed, and cases could spike by up to 2.6 million infections in a single month if measures such as social distancing and wearing masks were ignored.



Experts have warned that infections could rise in India as the holiday season nears, with celebrations for the Hindu festivals of Durga Puja and Diwali due this month and in mid-November, respectively.