India Can Prevent 2 Lakh COVID-19 Deaths By Dec 1 If People Wearing Face Masks, Observe Social Distancing: Study

Washington: COVID-19 will continue to pose a major public health threat in India unless people adhere to the two cardinal principles of social distancing and wearing a face mask.

These two measures alone may help prevent over 200,000 COVID-19-related deaths in India by December 1, according to a modelling study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in the US. The study suggests that there is an opportunity to further limit the toll of COVID-19 in India, reported Hindustan Times (HT).

“India’s epidemic is far from over, as a large proportion of the population is still susceptible,” HT reported quoting a statement by IHME Director, Christopher Murray.

“In fact, our modelling shows there is a wide range of potential outcomes, depending on the actions that governments and individuals take today, tomorrow, and into the near future. Mask-wearing and social distancing are crucial to mitigate the spread of the virus,” Murray explained.

Concurring with the study Gautam Menon, Professor, Departments of Physics and Biology, Ashoka University, Haryana said in the HT report, “It is certainly true that mask-wearing and distancing measures will significantly slow the progress of the disease while protecting vulnerable populations.”

“My first view is that the IHME model predicts a peak in infections only by early to mid-December, peak numbers of close to 6 million new infections per day and total deaths of about 500,000 in the ‘no intervention’ scenario,” Menon told PTI.

However, these numbers appear inflated compared to other estimates and models which suggest a peak that should happen well before mid-December, he noted in the report.

“Given that, the estimate of lives saved (in the study) may be on the excessive side,” Menon was quoted as saying.

What else did the study say?

  • India’s response to COVID-19 has produced some significant successes that highlight the opportunity to limit the pandemic’s toll in the country
  • Containment measures such as intensive contact tracing, widespread testing, mask-wearing, and social distancing mandates have helped reduce the spread of the virus
  • In the best-case scenario, India can expect approximately 291,145 total COVID-19 deaths by December 1, up from 60,000 in late August
  • If lockdown restrictions continue to ease up and face mask usage remains at current levels, India can expect approximately 492,380 total deaths by December 1
  •  In this scenario, 13 states would each have over 10,000 total COVID-19 deaths by that time, while currently, only Maharashtra has crossed this threshold
  • Until there is a widely available vaccine against COVID-19, much of India’s population remains susceptible to the disease

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