Even as India sees a steep rise in cases of coronavirus with the number of positive cases doubling every 3.5 days, epidemiologists say that India is yet to see the “peak” which is likely to hit the country within the next two weeks, affecting about 30,000 people.
“Peak” in epidemiological terms means the highest point in the “curve” of infected persons after which the cases start to fall, making the “curve” reach a plateau.
According to Dr K. Suresh, leading public health consultant and epidemiologist, India is expected to hit the peak between 20 to 30 April.
“I would say that around 20 April or so, we will be reaching the peak period. Considering this rate of increase, during the peak period time in India, the estimated number of affected people might rise about three to four times the number of cases now. It is likely to be somewhere around 25,000 to 30,000 cases.” Dr K. Suresh told The Sunday Guardian. India currently has about 6,500 confirmed cases, with a rate of increase of about 30-35% daily. The rate of increase in the number of positive Covid-19 cases is being witnessed in the last few weeks. India, which had its first case in the last week of January in Kerala, took almost 59 days to reach the 1,000 mark. It was only on 29 March that India hit the 1,000 plus of positive Covid-19 cases.
India took about four days to double and reach the 2,000 mark, while other countries like the United States, China, Spain and Italy took a day to double the number of cases.
This, epidemiologists say, is because of the timely travel restrictions and lockdowns put in place by the government of India. India had first placed its travel restrictions when the number of positive cases in the country was just about 500 odd cases and the country was put under lockdown when India had just some 650 odd cases.
Giridhar Babu, professor and head, Lifecourse Epidemiology, Public Health Foundation of India, told The Sunday Guardian, “India has been able to alter the outbreak by putting in timely restrictions and lockdown; otherwise, we would have hit the peak by now. By putting in this lockdown, what we have been able to achieve is slowing down the rate of spread and this has, therefore, shifted the timing of peak by a few weeks.”
“As we are expanding the testing of Covid-19 and increasing more surveillance, let us hold on for another week or two to find out what exactly the scenario looks like,” Giridhar Babu added.
While the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has not officially declared that India is in the stage of community transmission, which in fact could lead to a rapid rate of increase of coronavirus cases in India, the ICMR In its recent report suggested community transmission could possibly have started as 1.8% of SARI (sick) patients  tested positive, had no travel or contact history.
Giridhar Babu said that the government has not defined what community transmission is. “It is true that some cases have been reported where the contact of the affected person could not be traced, but I don’t know if we can say that it is a case of community transmission.”
Dr K. Suresh laid stress on rampant contract tracing, testing and keeping on the restrictions to flatten the curve. “Contact tracing is a very sensitive public health task and in a pandemic like this, it is paramount to nip the spread in the bud. We need to scientifically reach each and every contact of the affected person, reach all the high-risk districts and increase the number of tests in those areas and districts. This, along with the restrictions that the government has put, is the only way to flatten the curve,” Dr K. Suresh said.