Coronavirus | No new COVID-19 cases after May 16, says study

It’s highly unlikely going by the rise in numbers in Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal, say experts.

Updated - December 03, 2021 06:43 am IST

Published - April 25, 2020 11:14 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Flowers are seen on a deserted street in Siliguri on April 25, 2020.

Flowers are seen on a deserted street in Siliguri on April 25, 2020.

On Friday, V.K. Paul, NITI Aayog member and head of a key government empowered committee on medical management, presented a study to suggest that the lockdown had slowed the rate of transmission and increased the doubling time, the period it took for cases to double, to about 10 days. Though India continues to show a rising trend in cases, his projection also showed a forecast that says new cases would cease by May 16.

Also read: State-wise tracker for coronavirus cases, deaths and testing rates

From May 3, India would hit its peak in adding daily new cases at a little above 1,500 and this would drop to 1,000 cases by May 12, and down to zero by May 16. In all, this would mean that no more than 35,000 cases would be added between Saturday and the first fortnight of May.

Independent experts, and one of the members of that committee, who didn’t want to be identified said this was “highly unlikely”. For a decline in the national average, there would have to be declines that lasted over two weeks in key States such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal that were fuelling the rise in numbers. “So far there is no such evidence of a decline. So I don’t know the basis of that forecast. We are planning, in terms of keeping ventilators, beds, ICU facilities ready on the assumption that this will last much longer,” the member told The Hindu .

This week, the Indian Council of Medical Research also published a research strategy detailing how it was planning to ramp up testing far beyond April. Though this paper was prepared based on an assessment of resources at hand on the March 31, it projected 2.1 million RNA test kits, the gold standard in detecting the infection, in May and 2.8 million kits in June. In April, it expected at least a million kits. On average, one kit corresponds to one sample. So far, the ICMR has tested 5.4 million samples though this includes repeat tests on the same individuals. In other words, it expects to be testing more people not less in coming months. This also doesn’t include the antibody test kits to be used for community surveillance to gauge the spread, though the use of these kits has now been put on hold because of concerns of accuracy. The ICMR’s 200-odd labs now test around 40,000 samples a day.

Also read: India says daily growth rate of COVID-19 cases has dipped to 6%

This study, Strategic planning to augment the testing capacity for COVID-19 in India , is co-authored by scientists at the National Institute of Epidemiology, an ICMR body, and the ICMR’s headquarters in Delhi as well as WHO representatives.



Also read: India records largest single-day spike as government defends ‘very timely’ lockdown

Text messages sent to Dr. Paul requesting a clarification on the basis for decline weren’t answered.

An independent epidemiologist, who advises State governments and didn’t want to be identified, also felt that such a decline was unlikely. “To bend the curve or reduce down from the peak, the R0 (a number that shows how many a single person can infect) must stabilise around one for flattening and then go below one to bend it. West Bengal and Gujarat are peaking just now but case detection rates are rising. There are many hidden cases in West Bengal.”

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