The peak stage of COVID-19 in India has been delayed by the eight-week lockdown and has strengthened public health measures, and it may now arrive around mid-November when a paucity of isolation and ICU beds and ventilators can arise, a study says.
The study, conducted by researchers from an operations research group constituted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said the lockdown shifted the peak by an estimated 34 days to 76 days and helped bring down the number of infections by between 69% and 97%, allowing time to shore up resources and health infrastructure.
In a scenario of intensified public health measures with 60% effectiveness after the lockdown, the demand for treatment facilities can be met until the first week of November. Thereafter, isolation beds could be inadequate for 5.4 months, ICU beds for 4.6 months and ventilators for 3.9 months, projections by the researchers showed.
However, this shortfall is estimated to be 83% less than what it could have been without the lockdown and public health measures.
With sustained measures to increase the infrastructure and the varying pace of the epidemic in different regions, the impact of the unmet need can be reduced. If the coverage of healthcare measures can be increased to 80%, the epidemic can be mitigated.
According to the model-based analysis for the pandemic in India, with the additional capacity built for testing, treating and isolating patients during the lockdown, the number of cases at the peak could come down by 70% and the cumulative cases may drop by nearly 27%.
As for mortality, approximately 60% deaths were prevented and one-third of this mortality prevention is attributed to the reduction in the unmet need for critical care as a result of the intervention, the analysis showed.
The researchers said the management of the disease would involve a dynamic review of policies and significant strengthening of the healthcare system.
“While lockdowns will delay the onset of peak and give the much- needed time for the health system to respond, strengthening the health system response in terms of testing, isolation of cases, treatment and contact-tracing, as is being done currently, will have to be the mainstay to reduce the impact of the pandemic in India until a vaccine becomes available,” it said.
The overall economic health system cost of this pandemic is estimated to be 6.2% of India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The country saw a record spike of 11,929 cases pushing India’s COVID-19 caseload to 3,20,922 on Sunday while the death toll rose to 9,195 with an increase of 311 fatalities, according to the Union Health Ministry data.
India registered more than 10,000 cases for the third day in a row and is the fourth worst-hit nation by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ministry on June 9 said coronavirus related health infrastructure in the country has been strengthened with the availability of 958 dedicated COVID-19 hospitals with 1,67,883 isolation beds, 21,614 ICU and 73,469 oxygen supported beds.
Also, 2,313 dedicated COVID Health Centres with 1,33,037 isolation beds, 10,748 ICU beds and 46,635 oxygen supported beds have also been operationalised. Moreover, 7,525 COVID Care Centres with 7,10,642 beds are now available to combat COVID-19 in the country.
The ventilators available for COVID beds are 21,494, the ministry had said, adding that order of 60,848 more ventilators has been placed.