Policy News

Models predict how India would fare post-lockdown

Computer simulations suggest preventing a second wave of infection in India will need continued aggressive tracking of COVID-19 cases even after restrictions ease.

Subhra Priyadarshini

doi:10.1038/nindia.2020.70 Published online 20 April 2020

As India began relaxing lockdown norms for certain key sectors today, various groups of computer modellers projected probable scenarios of what might happen if restrictions are gradually lifted beginning 4 May 2020. 

The projections suggest a likely second wave of infection unless India aggressively traces and isolates existing cases of COVID-19 and prevents new infections from coming into the country.

A team from Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc) and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Reserach (TIFR) used a computer model to simulate in detail two Indian cities — Bengaluru and Mumbai. Rajesh Sundaresan, a professor in the Department of Electrical Communication Engineering at IISc said the model considered parameters like the city's population densities, age distribution, household size distribution and commute distances. The researchers worked out various scenarios — for instance, what would happen if COVID-19 cases continue to be isolated post-lockdown, or if some portions are opened in a staggered manner, or if a city adopts a traffic rationing measure for office goers, and so on.

The models can be used by India's policy makers to test these measures before actually implementing them, the researchers say. The models do not, however, consider economic or ethical issues or spontaneous changes in people’s behaviour.  The researchers cautioned that the projections should not be used for treatment or travel plans.

Another conglomerate, the Indian Scientists’ Response to CoViD-19 (ISRC) Group, released a country-wide epidemiological model, which can be used to plan for resources at the city, district or state-level. Their model predicts that if India tests and quarantines both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients on a large scale, it will help slow down and stop the spread of the pandemic. 

One of the modellers Bhalchandra Pujari of the Centre for Modeling and Simulation at Savitribai Phule Pune University said the model can inform policy decisions in any future outbreak and not just during the novel coronavirus pandemic.The model can compare the effects of multiple non-pharmaceutical interventions – including different types of lock-downs, quarantines and expanded testing.

Haryana-based Ashoka University is also making another India-wide model in collaboration with a software consultancy ThoughtWorks. The model, to be released soon, will include geographical information apart from state-level demographics. Gautam Menon, a Professor of Physics and Biology at Ashoka University and part of the project, said the model will initially represent 5 per cent of the Indian population and will be expanded to represent up to 40 per cent later.

[Nature India's latest coverage on the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic here. More updates on the global crisis here.]