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A tool for thought: On coronavirus pandemic in India

  • 20 October, 2020

  • 5 Min Read

A tool for thought: On coronavirus pandemic in India


  • A committee of experts — well-regarded mathematicians and infectious disease experts — appointed by the Department of Science and Technology to use mathematical modelling and forecast the course of the pandemic has brought good tidings.

Covid19 forecasts by mathematical modelling:

  • By their estimate, India passed its COVID-19 peak in September and the decline in the overall caseload being observed for nearly a month now is to continue.
  • Active cases, about 7.5 lakh now, are expected to drop below 50,000 by December, and by February, the pandemic is likely to extinguish itself with only ‘minimal’ (not zero) infections.
  • The decline will continue only if there are no major mutations during winter, protective antibodies are durable, and current restrictions are maintained.

Pandemic modelling:

  • The purpose of pandemic modelling is to generate a probabilistic overview of the future and mathematical modelling has become a popular, creative exercise, with several models and forecasts.
  • The datasets it has relied on are publicly available and the modelling employs a category of models called SEIR that estimates, within a population, those Susceptible, Exposed, Infected and Recovered.
  • It is extremely dependent on the quality of data that is used as an input and relies as much on simplifying assumptions that sacrifice complexity for comprehension but there is nothing to suggest, from what is known about the exercise, that it is more likely to be true than similar estimates from scores of models the world over that subscribe to a certain degree of rigour.

Way ahead:

  • Experts associated with the pandemic have reiterated many times that mathematical modelling ought not to be taken literally.
  • Mathematical models, to be useful, must induce policy or behavioural change to avoid their own worst-case scenarios and this latest assessment must be seen — no more, no less — as a tool to this end.

Source: TH


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