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The number of active covid-19 cases in India will continue to rise for three to four months, possibly exponentially, if the spread is not contained, showed a mathematical model developed by a team of scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur.

As per the model, India is exhibiting signs of a second wave of covid-19 as has already been seen in the US and Europe, including France, and the UK. Though the nationwide vaccination drive is being gradually extended to include all age groups, the emergence of several new mutants of the pathogen, which are far more infectious, poses a health emergency situation, the scientists said.

The researchers, led by Rajesh Ranjan and Aryan Sharma, developed the variation in basic reproduction number (R), with the time to understand the emerging dynamics of covid-19 spread in key states and pan-India. ‘R’ is the number of people an infected person can infect on an average, assuming there was no pre-existing immunity in a community.

“Since late February 2021, the value of R is consistently above 1 clearly indicating a second wave. For nearly five months between October 2020 and February, R stayed below 1, when the pandemic was showing signs of decline. A relatively late arrival of the second wave in India, compared to those in several other countries in the world, could be due to the recent spread of more contagious mutants, although they are less virulent," said Mahendra K. Verma, professor, department of physics, IIT Kanpur.

The scientists said the R-value on 27 March 2021 was around 1.26, which is very close to the value in early May 2020. “Therefore, following the trend from the first wave, it may be estimated that the number of active cases is going to rise for the next 3-4 months unless the social distancing norms are strictly enforced, and vaccination efforts are expedited," said Verma, adding that the second wave may see exponential growth.

The team of researchers had in October rightly predicted that India’s covid-19 caseload to hit 14.57 million by January 2021.

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