With drop rates of COVID-19 infection in India and surveys indicating that almost 300 million individuals might already have antibodies, some experts conclude that despite the recent uptick in two hard-hit states, the worst of the disease has passed.
“There is a human barricade for the virus,” said Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan, who with a team of researchers, has been modeling the trajectory of the outbreak in India.
“By the end of March, we should see a very slow, steady decline (in cases),” she added.
Cases of COVID-19 that increased in September by almost 100,000 a day are already increasing at just 10,000 per day. And the reported number of overall infections in India, which was estimated to exceed that of the United States at the end of 2020, now lies at 11 million, well behind the U.S. tally of around 28 million.
The overall death toll in India so far is just under 156,000, the fourth-highest number of deaths worldwide because of COVID-19.
“India suffered through a lot and because it suffered through a lot, it’s reached the other shore now,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan. He is an epidemiologist at the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, a research firm based in Washington, D.C., and New Delhi.
“I don’t see the prospect of a second wave in India. If it does happen, it will likely be a modest one.” He added.
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A recent government serological survey found that 21.5% of Indians were possibly infected with COVID-19, giving them a degree of immunity, although antibody testing by a diagnostic company on more than 700,000 individuals indicated that 55% of Indians might already have been infected.
Not all epidemiologists believe that India is out of the woods, to be sure. In two states – Maharashtra and Kerala. This accounts for a combined 70 percent of nationally active cases, the country is currently fighting a surge in cases.
Even those predicting more declines in cases, such as Mukherjee, warn that, besides vigorously vaccinating its population, India will need to continue COVID-19 containment measures and surveillance of new variants.
More socializing, coupled with the latest restart of local trains in Mumbai’s financial hub, could cause the spike in Maharashtra, experts claim. While the surge there is being blamed for a restart of schools in Kerala. New clusters have also been established at the Bengaluru Tech Hub.
“Even though there are advisories against large gatherings, people have started to take it easy,” said Pradeep Awate. He is a senior health official in Maharashtra.