Covid-19: 249 million cases, 1.8 million deaths by March 2021; MIT researchers’ gloomy prediction

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Updated: July 08, 2020 10:21 AM

Coronavirus: In such a scenario — absent drugs and vaccines — non-pharmacological measures like hygiene, distancing and wearing masks have the most efficacy.

The MIT model also revealed how early and aggressive testing could have helped countries fight the virus’s spread. The MIT model also revealed how early and aggressive testing could have helped countries fight the virus’s spread.

The world may have 11.6 million Covid-19 infected persons and 5.4 lakh deaths, but according to recent analysis by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the true number of infections could be 12 times higher and the number of deaths could be 50% higher.

The researchers project 249 million cases and 1.8 million deaths by spring 2021 if there are no effective cures. They argue that the benefit of testing as a measure to contain the pandemic gets further and further diluted as the virus spreads in a population.

In such a scenario — absent drugs and vaccines — non-pharmacological measures like hygiene, distancing and wearing masks have the most efficacy.

MIT professors Hazhir Rahmandad and John Sterman, along with doctoral student Tse Yang Lim calibrated data on testing, reported cases, reported deaths, excess overall mortality, etc, reported by 84 nations (India included, but not China), accounting for 4.75 billion people, till June 18 with factors that have a bearing on infection spread and Covid fatality — such as asymptomatic transmission, individual behaviour, hospital capacity, social attitudes and policy responses.

The paper is a pre-print and hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had projected, in late-June, that the prevalence of the disease was likely to be 10 times higher than the reported numbers in six regions of that country.

The MIT model also revealed how early and aggressive testing could have helped countries fight the virus’s spread. Had the countries tested 0.1% of their respective populations per day in mid-March, total cases (as estimated by the researchers, not the reported numbers) would have been lower by nearly 35 million and total deaths (again, true fatality) by 200,000.

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