Risk of Covid-19 surge in India as strict lockdown measures are loosened

GlobalData Healthcare 5 June 2020 (Last Updated June 5th, 2020 16:07)
Risk of Covid-19 surge in India as strict lockdown measures are loosened

India has been the most heavily affected country in Asia by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). Based on the current trajectory of Covid-19 daily confirmed cases, India will be the fourth most heavily affected country in the world behind the US, Brazil, and Russia in the next two weeks. GlobalData does not believe India will see significant decreases in new cases soon, due to inadequate control of this pandemic. GlobalData estimates that it will take an additional six weeks of continued strict social distancing efforts before new cases will decrease to fewer than 1,000.

GlobalData provides a Risk of Transmission Forecast Model using the most recent historical Covid-19 data from the Johns Hopkins Covid-19 Database and the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Covid-19 situation reports. This model analyzes the forecast timeline for the next two months and includes peak and recovery estimates. Based on historical data for new cases of Covid-19, India appears nowhere near the peak, as more than 50% of all confirmed cases were reported in the last two weeks. The outlook for the future remains uncertain, as shown in Figure 1. The average daily new cases in the past week were around 7,500, which was around 1,500 cases higher than the week before and almost 3,500 cases higher than two weeks before. India was conducting an average of 25,000 tests per day in April, which increased to more than 100,000 tests per day in the last week of May. This increased testing is one of the possible explanations for the higher number of daily confirmed cases in recent days. It is also believed that actual numbers of undiagnosed cases are much higher given India’s low testing rate compared with the size of its population. The Indian Council of Medical Research states that this pandemic will likely continue with cases continuing to rise in the near future.

The peak and recovery phase scenario is based on the assumption that strict social-distancing measures will continue to be government policy. As India has started to reopen the economy amid the rapidly rising cases, there is a major risk that Covid-19 cases will not decline in the near future. The economic impact will play a role in determining when the country can open and India has decided that complete lockdown for long periods is no longer viable. However, the timing of when to lift the lockdown has to be right; otherwise, the Covid-19 cases could very easily see an exponential rise, which can overwhelm the healthcare system of India. Moving forward, India must still remain vigilant, develop an effective test and contact-tracing policy, and be prepared to shut down geographical areas where outbreak hotspots occur.

The peak and recovery phase scenario has some limitations, including (but not limited to) accuracy of testing, testing availability, testing speed, speed of reporting, and accuracy of reporting. GlobalData will continue to monitor developments and will improve the model when more data are available.

Figure 1: Covid-19 Transmission Risk Scenarios Forecast, India

Source: GlobalData, Pharma intelligence Center