COVID-19 surge may taper off by the month-end, says virologist Gagandeep Kang
The current COVID-19 surge in India may begin to start tapering between the middle and end of May, virologist Gagandeep Kang said on Wednesday.
At a virtual interaction with members of the Indian Women Press Corps, Dr. Kang said, “Best guess estimates from a number of models put this somewhere between the middle and end of the month. Some models have it [second wave] going out in early June. Based on what we are seeing now, middle to end of May would be a reasonable estimate.”
The first Indian woman scientist to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society also dispelled doubts over the efficacy of the two vaccines — Covishield and Covaxin — currently available in India and said more options would be available soon.
“The vaccines offer lot of protection against disease, severe disease; good protection against disease and some protection against infection. If you are protected against infection, you also don’t transmit to the next person. So the vaccines are working very well against severe disease and death,” said Dr. Kang, adding that they may not prevent infection but definitely decrease infection.
Dr. Kang attributed the second surge to the virus spreading among two segments which escaped the COVID-19 wrath last year – the middle class and the rural population.
Sharing data from Our World in Data, she said the size of the peak that is seen now is three-and-a-half to four times seen earlier. “The likelihood is that when we begin to see a decline, it will also be reasonably rapid as the virus would have had the opportunity to burn through the population,” she said.
Dr. Kang said, “Despite a decline in testing, we are pretty close to the limit that we could potentially reach, somewhere around four to four-and-a half lakh cases per day.”
The scientist, known for her work in inter-disciplinary research into the prevention, occurrence and development of enteric diseases, is currently an adviser to the Punjab and Andhra Pradesh governments on handling the pandemic.
Comment | Weighing in on the saga of a vaccine
On whether a national lockdown is the way forward, Dr. Kang said, “A lockdown will absolutely help. If we want to have fewer cases two-three weeks from now, we should lock down today. That will guarantee we will have a lower load of cases in three weeks. The question is can you afford to do that. If you choose to do that what will you do to show that you have learnt from last year where you had all kinds of humanitarian issues. If you can guarantee that it will not happen, that people are in safe, secure places, there is no violation of their human rights and everybody is fed and comfortable, then sure go ahead.”
Those in the 18-44 age group are generally at a much lower risk of severe disease and mortality than people who are older and have co-morbidities, she said. “In every other country that has done a phased roll-out of vaccines they have made sure to address the needs of the first priority groups up to a reasonable level,” she added.