07/10/2020, 16.02
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Prof Shamika Ravi warns against panic, COVID-19 won’t destroy India

India has the eighth highest death toll, but given the size of its population (1.3 billion) it has one of the lowest rates: 15 deaths per million inhabitants; by comparison, Great Britain has 670 and the US, 402. Existing epidemiological models are “not appropriate for the Indian setting".

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Prof Shamika Ravi, an economist, is very clear: the panic over the COVID-19 pandemic in India has no basis. Coronavirus infections are much more prevalent than thought, but they are also much less deadly.

So far, India has reported 793,802 positive cases and 21,604 deaths. In terms of fatalities, India is in eighth place, but with respect to its population, that is a very low figure: 15 deaths per million inhabitants.

Prof Ravi (picture 3) is known in India for her coronavirus analyses. An economist and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, she regularly tweets graphs and explanations to over 90,000 followers, showing fatality rates, active cases, contagion curves, etc.

On Wednesday (picture 2), she showed that five states – Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi – have the highest Case fatality rate (CFR) in the country. Of these, only Gujarat’s is higher than the world average.

On that day, India’s COVID-19 recovery rate stood at 61.53 per cent with gap between infected and recovered widening.

The expert’s data also come from Johns Hopkins University, the World Health Organisation, and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

For her, basing the estimates on the number of tests conducted and the absolute number of deaths does not give a real indication of the evolution of COVID-19. To get this, she began using a "powerful statistic” like the mortality rate per million inhabitants.

“If India were afflicted similarly to Europe, we should have had over 800,000 deaths from COVID-19”. Instead, “Clearly we don't (even with under-reporting). Perhaps [the] answer lies in immunity.”

According to Ravi, the epidemiological modelling used so far “wasn’t appropriate for the Indian setting" because “a lot of the parameters [. . .] come from OECD[*] countries”.

“There are many things we don't know about #COVID19India but there are few statistical facts: 1) India has [a] high recovery rate (62%) compared to many countries (US: 27%) 2) India's low death rate (15 p million) can't be explained by low reporting alone (UK: 670, US: 402).” This is “a fraction of what you are seeing in Western Europe”. 

Prof Ravi agrees with the lockdown Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed on 25 March, which caused many problems for migrant workers.

In her view, this was “a drastic measure for a country of 1.3 billion people, but in a resource-poor country like India, this becomes a pre-emptive necessary step.”

In fact, “Even if we went by statistics globally that only 5 per cent of cases would require hospitalisation, ventilators etc, we don’t have that kind of infrastructure.” (N.C.)

[*] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

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