Coronavirus Pandemic

India: Third wave of pandemic likely to see half the daily Covid cases reported in 2nd surge

PTI/New Delhi
Filed on July 4, 2021

Third wave could hit peak between October-November if Covid protocols are not followed, scientist says.

The third wave of coronavirus pandemic could hit the peak between October-November if Covid appropriate behaviour is not followed, but it may see half the daily cases recorded during the second surge, according to a scientist in the government panel tasked with modelling Covid-19 cases.

He, however, said the third wave could spread faster if any new virulent variant emerges.

Manindra Agarwal, involved in the "Sutra Model" or the mathematical projection of trajectory of Covid-19, also said the model has three scenarios--optimistic, intermediate and pessimistic--for the prediction of the third wave.

The Department of Science and Technology had last year formed the panel to forecast the surge of coronavirus cases using mathematical models.

The panel had also received flak for not predicting the exact nature of the second wave of Covid.

Mr Agarwal, who is part of the three-member panel, said the loss of immunity, effects of vaccination and possibility of a more virulent variant, have been factored in while predicting the third wave, something which was not done during modelling the second wave.

"We have created three scenarios. One is an "optimistic" one. In this, we assume that life goes back to normal by August, and there is no new mutant. The second is the "intermediate" one. In this, we assume that vaccination is 20 per cent less effective in addition to optimistic scenario assumptions.

"Third is "pessimist"' one. This has one assumption different from intermediate one: a new, 25 per cent more infectious mutant spreads in August (it is not delta+, which is not more infectious than delta)," he said in a series of tweets.

The second wave is likely to plateau by mid-August, and the third wave could reach its peak between October and November.

In the case of the "pessimistic" scenario, the third wave could see cases rise between 1,50,000 to 2,00,000 in the country, the scientist noted.

The figure is less than half of what was recorded when the deadly second wave had hit its peak in the first half of May, flooding hospitals with patients and claiming thousands of lives daily.

On May 7, India had recorded 4,14,188 Covid-19 cases.

"If a new mutant comes, the third wave could spread rapidly, but it will be half of what the second wave was. Delta variant is infecting people who were infected with a different variant. So this has been taken into consideration," Agarwal said.

He said as vaccination progresses, the possibility of a third or fourth wave will be less.

"In case of an "optimistic" scenario, the daily cases could be in the range of 50,000 to 1,00,000. In the case of the intermediate scenario (if it is assumed that vaccination is 20 per cent less effective, in addition to optimistic scenario assumptions), the cases could be in the range of 50,000 to 1,00,000, but more than the optimistic scenario," the panel member noted.

M Vidyasagar, a scientist at IIT-Hyderabad, who is also involved in the modelling of Covid cases, said hospitalisation could be less during the third wave.

He cited the example of the UK where in January more than 60,000 cases were reported with daily deaths touching 1,200. However, during the fourth wave, the number dropped to 21,000 cases and just 14 deaths.

"Vaccination played a major role in bringing down the cases that needed hospitalisation in the UK. This has been factored in while coming out with the three scenarios," Mr Vidyasagar told PTI.

The government has been emphasising vaccination as the fear of the third wave looms.

Mr Agarwal also explained the reasons behind the delay in coming out with an analysis for the third wave.

"It took us a while to analyse three reasons. First, loss of immunity in the recovered population. Second, vaccination-induced immunity. Each of these two (factors) need to be estimated for the future.

"And third, how to incorporate these two factors in the Sutra model. Fortunately, it turned out that both can be incorporated by suitably changing contact rate and reach parameters. So that takes care of the third factor. The first two factors required detailed analysis," he tweeted.

"Contact rate" is how fast the infection spreads and "reach parameter" is the percentage of the population the pandemic is active in.

Agarwal added that his team went through studies done in the past on loss of immunity while making the Sutra Model.

"Similarly, we also looked at the projected vaccination rate over the next few months, including the effects of vaccine-hesitancy, and arrived at month-wise estimates for vaccination," he said.

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