MIT researchers predict 249 mn cases by next March PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 08 July 2020 03:00
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Even as new Covid 19 cases detected on Sunday pushed India to the third spot in the list of countries by overall number of cases, a recent analysis by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) says that the true number of infections could be 12 times higher than what is reported, while deaths could be 50% higher. MIT professors Hazhir Rahmandad and John Sterman, along with doctoral student Tse Yang Lim calibrated data on testing, reported cases, reported deaths, excess overall mortality, etc, reported by 84 nations (India included, but not China), accounting for 4.75 billion people, till June 18 with factors that have a bearing on infection spread and Covid fatality—such as asymptomatic transmission, individual behaviour, hospital capacity, social attitudes and policy responses.

Rahmandad et al argue that the benefit of testing as a measure to contain the pandemic gets further and further diluted as the virus spreads in a population, and, in such a scenario—absent drugs and vaccines—non-pharmacological measures like hygiene, distancing and wearing masks have the most efficacy. They project 249 million cases and 1.75 million deaths in these 84 countries by spring 2021, if there are no efficacious pharmacological interventions and the willingness of communities and government to reduce transmission through non-pharmacological measures improves mildly than what is currently projected.

The paper is a pre-print and hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet.

The researchers’ model captures the interplay between various factors—for instance, while more testing increases the proportion of infections detected, and has a bearing on propensity of individuals to engage in risky behaviour and, consequently on driving down infections and the burden on the hospital system in a country, early testing-led success could prompt risky behaviour by individuals.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had projected, in late-June, that the prevalence of the disease was likely to be 10 times higher than the reported numbers in six regions of that country.

The MIT model also revealed how early and aggressive testing could have helped countries fight the virus’s spread—had the countries tested 0.1% of their respective populations per day in mid-March (a rate much higher than what the countries had reported at the time) total cases (true as estimated by the researchers, and not reported) would have been lower by nearly 35 million and total deaths (again, true fatality) by 200,000.



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