Covid-19: No it won’t end in India by early October!

A presentation deck (dated 13 Jul) by Bhaskaran Raman et al at my alma mater IIT Bombay claims that India will see the end of Covid-19 in 2.5 months.  Not surprisingly, natural human tendency to lap up anything positive has resulted in this “study” already becoming viral on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.The “study” uses Levitt’s metric H(t) = X(t)/X(t-1), X(t) being cummulative count until day t (of Covid cases, or Covid deaths). IT uses the death statistics, but makes no use of the cumulative case count.So I decided to validate the study (or otherwise) by using cumulative case count (all-India). And what do I find?

Chart 1: Levitt’s metric moved sharply downwards from 1.35 in early days to 1.05 by around 30-Apr (51 days), but has taken 80 days to move from 1.05 to 1.037!!!

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Clearly, the behavior of the metric is non-linear and it would be a fatal mistake to apply a linear trend for extrapolation. Therefore, I used a more recent period of last 40 days where the “scatter” is much less.

Chart 2: Levitt’s metric data for last 40 days period, extrapolated to next 2.5 months (75 days). No, the metric is not coming anywhere near the magic figure of 1.0 (to indicate the tapering off of the pandemic).

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Over next 2.5 months (75 days), the metric could be around 1.027. In fact, for it to reach 1, we would need 386 days (i.e. 8th Aug 2021)!!!

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On the contrary, at current momentum we could be adding about 170K cases every day by early October.

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And our cumulative cases could be around 5.5 million by then!!!

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I hope Raman’s study is proved right and my analysis proves flawed, but the chances are slim.

We all love to be optimistic and “false positive” studies run the risk of encouraging complacency when the need of the hour is to stay vigilant. I am hopeful we will not just wait for virus to get tired (it won’t!) and take necessary preventive steps (test, trace, isolate) alongside proactive augmentation of healthcare capacity.

On business front, we need to be prepared for the long haul. The virus is here for a long period. We need to find ways to resume business activity even while taking every measure to mitigate the looming risks.

July 19th, 2020|