The lockdown may have saved 37,000-71,000 lives and helped contain coronavirus infections to around 100,000 compared to an estimated 1.4-2.9 million covid-19 cases, without a lockdown, the government claimed on Friday, citing various mathematical models commissioned by the ministry of statistics and programme implementation (MoSPI). The assessment covered the period between 25 March and 15 May.
“Even by a simple model, 1.4-2.9 million cases have been averted; deaths averted vary between 37,000 and 71,000. The government has shared publicly available data with independent experts to model the impact of the lockdown. In a pandemic like covid-19 there are no parallels to compare," said Praveen Srivastava, secretary and chief statistician of India, MoSPI.
The ministry worked with the Indian Statistical Institute to find that at least 2 million cases were averted due to the lockdown. “Two independent economists through mathematical modelling of the epidemic have estimated that India has averted 2.3 million cases and 68,000 deaths. Some retired scientists said that about 1.59 million cases and 51,000 deaths were avoided," he added.
Along similar lines, the Boston Consulting Group model estimated the lockdown to have saved 120,000-210,000 lives, and averted 360,000-700,000 positive cases of covid-19, while a model from Public Health Foundation of India estimated saving nearly 78,183 lives.
The health ministry on Friday also said that due to the lockdown, growth of cases were down to 5.4% from 22% on 3 April, and the doubling time has increased from 3.5 days to 13.5 days.
“Growth rate of new cases till 3 April was increasing at the rate of 22.6% and the behaviour of the virus was exponential. After 4 April, there is a clear slowing in the growth, and then it settled at 5.5% from 18-22%," said Dr V.K. Paul, member of government’s policy think tank NITI Aayog, and head of the empowered group 1 on covid-19. The effect of the second phase of lockdown was visible till 15 May as the death rate decreased, he added.
According to the Centre, the pandemic was an “urban disease" concentrated in a few pockets of India, especially in urban areas. “Around 80% cases are in the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh; and 60% of active cases were in five cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Pune and Thane. Similarly, deaths are also concentrated in urban areas in 10 states," said Paul.
Meanwhile, during the 147th session of the executive board of the World Health Organization (WHO), Union health minister Harsh Vardhan was elected as chair for 2020-21. The meeting was held virtually on Friday. He replaced Dr Hiroki Nakatani of Japan.
Vardhan is also a member of several prestigious committees of WHO, such as the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts and the Global Technical Consultative Group on Polio Eradication.