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Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020 11:00 [IST]

Last Update: Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020 05:16 [IST]

Keep the mask on

Has the coronavirus pandemic already peaked in India? And can the spread of the virus be controlled by early next year? A group of India's top scientists believe so. Their latest mathematical model suggests India passed its peak of reported infections in September and the pandemic can be controlled by February next year. All such models assume the obvious: people will wear masks, avoid large gatherings, maintain social distancing and wash hands.

India has recorded some 7.5 million Covid-19 cases and more than 114,000 deaths so far. It has a sixth of the world's population and a sixth of reported cases. However, India accounts for only 10% of the world's deaths from the virus. Its case fatality rate or CFR, which measures deaths among Covid-19 patients, is less than 2% - among the lowest in the world.

India hit a record peak in the middle of September when it reported more than a million active cases. Since then the caseload has been steadily declining. Last week, India reported an average of 62,000 cases and 784 deaths every day. Daily deaths have also been falling in most states, including Sikkim. Testing has remained consistent - an average of more than a million samples were tested every day last week.

Despite the panel’s optimistic outlook, many scientists remain skeptical that India will see an early respite pointing to a patchy testing system that may end up underestimating the true extent of its outbreak, particularly in its rural hinterland. With a second wave of infections and lockdowns currently being witnessed across much of Europe, the government committee offered their own warning for India.

India's busy festival season is around the corner. This is when families get together. So a few "superspreader" events and increased mobility could still change the course of the virus in two weeks. Kerala, for instance, recorded a sharp uptick in cases in September following celebrations of Onam, a harvest festival. The scientists have warned of a massive spike in cases if people let their guard down: they predict a new peak of 2.6 million active infections by the end of October, up from 773,000 currently.

Clearly, hope can be quickly extinguished by complacency. So keep your mask on, and avoid large gatherings.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi