Lockdown 1 and 2 managed to avert between 1.4 and 2.9 million coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases and 54,000 deaths ,according to government data released by Niti Aayog member Vinod Paul on Friday.
Paul was highlighting results of various epidemic modelling exercises done by experts to measure the gains of the lockdown imposed in the country starting on March 25 and extended three times.
“This data is based on the impact of lockdown and other measures taken between lockdown 1 and 2. Even though various agencies have conducted the analysis but the results more or less are indicative of the same conclusion that lockdown has managed to significantly slow down the virus transmission rate in the country,” said Paul.
“The situation would have been much worse, as the data suggests. We have about 95% confidence level on the data generated out of all this analysis, which is proof enough to say that the country is on the right track. Having said that, this kind of analysis is always prone to improvisations, depending on the kind of data that’s fed.”
At least five different agencies were involved in data analysis, providing a range between 1.4 and 2.9 million cases averted, and between 37,000 and 78,000 deaths averted.
The analysis also shows that much of the outbreak is confined to a limited area. As of May 21, around 80% of the Covid-19 cases were limited to five states, and 90% of the cases were spread largely across 10 states. The states are Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Karnataka.
In the cities, about 70% of the cases are confined to just 10 — Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Ahmadabad, Thane, Pune, Indore, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Aurangabad.
The deaths follow the same pattern, with 95% of Covid-19 deaths being reported from 10 states and 70% from 10 cities.
The 10 worst affected states in terms of deaths are Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. And the 10 cities from where maximum deaths are being reported are Mumbai, Ahmadabad, Pune, Delhi, Kolkata, Indore, Thane, Jaipur, Chennai and Surat.
“What data tells us is currently is that it is an urban disease as mostly cities have been affected so far, and our interventions have to be accordingly planned at the level of cities, municipalities and even at the block level. However it is easier to contain the spread in villages because of low population density,” said Paul.
The government has always maintained that lockdown was meant to slow the disease transmission so that it got enough time to upgrade the health infrastructure in terms of hospitals beds, testing capacity and trained human resources, among other things ,to better manage the outbreak.
Even though India is well-prepared to handle the situation, Paul says now is the time to be extra cautious.
“We were under lockdown so far, but now that we are lifting it gradually, there will be challenges in curtailing the transmission because the virus is in circulation and we have no immunity against it. Also, it is not a matter of days, weeks or months but much longer, so we have to be extra careful and strictly follow the preventive measures such as maintaining physical distancing, following hygiene practices, wearing masks etc. The idea is to make it difficult for the virus to spread,” says Paul.
Experts agree that gains have been made, and what shape the outbreak takes now depends on human behaviour.
“Mathematical modelling is usually a way of telling what could have been the case if certain measures were taken to prevent disease from spreading during an outbreak. Lockdown was a measure to ensure our health system wasn’t burdened and it has achieved its purpose. Now the onus lies on people to consolidate the gains made,” said Dr AC Dhariwal, former director, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).