Covid-19 pandemic in India through my eyes

Vaccination in India is starting tomorrow (Jan 2, 2021). I am not sure, how much time it would take for showing its impact but it would be at least few weeks. As per my earlier prediction, we are close to 2.5 lakh active cases by year end. I am expecting this to drop to about 1.5 lakh cases by January end. After that it may oscillate between 1 to 1.5 lakh active cases unless vaccination starts to show its impact and numbers drop to insignificant levels. This may take time till March 2021 or so.

We started hearing about Covid-19 virus in January 2020 and its growth in China. At that time it looked too far away from us. However it did not take much time to spread globally and India started to see rising cases in March. We had planned our University foundation day celebrations on March 14th, 2020. Along with celebrations, we had also planned to hand over various awards to students. On the night of March 13th, we got indication from Govt to shutdown student activities and we had to cancel the event and ask students to not come.

We thought, it may be 10-15 days of closing and then everything would restart. However that was not the case and very soon, we had countrywide lockdown and everything came to standstill. Finding basic necessity became troublesome and it took several weeks before alternate systems started. For my own purposes, I started looking at the Corona related data and comparing it with information being circulated in media. I felt that media was trying to always paint a negative picture and that was leading to lot of hopelessness among people. Many started suffering from psychological issues. Then I thought I would do my own analysis of data and share it once in a while through my social media post. I did not want to flood my posts with it everyday so I used the “story” feature of FaceBook – which makes the post disappear in 24 hours. However many people started following my posts and wanted it to be posted in normal news feed so that they can see it later also. If I missed posting my analysis, some of them would remind me even at late night. So I made it a habit to post my analysis before I went to sleep. I did this till about 3-4 weeks ago when I got involved with a Major Nuclear Fusion project funded by private investors based out of silicon valley. Since then I announced that I would now be posting only once in few days.

I used single source of data provided by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) since it was important to compare data only with one source. Many other sites also kept track of data but were being updated in live basis, which made it difficult to compare across days. Initially MoHFW used to provide updates twice a day – one in morning and other in night. Later on they started doing only once in a day in the morning between 9 AM to 10 AM.

So what was the difference in the way I was presenting data as compared to what I was doing. Most of the media focused on Total numbers of Confirmed cases and Total deaths. These numbers were going to increase everyday or at best remain constant. What was not being focused on was the recovery cases and active cases. Active cases could increase or decrease depending on severity of cases. I focused on two things – active cases and percentage change of parameters every day. Percentage change would show if cases were growing faster or slowing down and at some stage start to show negative growth. As I kept posting these, many started to follow my analysis and lot of feedback also came. I kept adding more plots as and when needed. At certain stages, I also tried to do trend analysis to see if we could predict behavior in coming days.

In April trend changed very fast and I had to revise my predictions quickly. Slowly trends were bit more stable and it could remain valid for few weeks at a stretch. Some of the change in trend was due identifiable events – Around July it seemed to be linked to unlock down process. At times it could be linked to some festivities etc.

My most recent prediction was made on Dec 13 and we expected number of active cases to drop to around 2.5 Lakhs. As the year ended, we stand at 2.54 Lakhs – very close. Globally now India is at 10th position in terms of active cases. Top position is occupied by USA with about 80 Lakh active cases. India would drop to even much lower position if we take India’s large population base in account.

To get a clear picture of trend I tried to calculate a moving average of percentage increase of parameters. I found it very useful to take 15 days moving average – where ripples disappeared and trends became very clear. This is shown below:

As can be seen in the plot above, till Sept 18, we went through phases of high growth and slow growth but remaining positive all the time. From 3rd week of Sept, we started to see the negative growth phases and we hit the peak of active cases around that time with total cases of about 10.2 lakhs. Since then we entered the negative growth phase. So active cases kept on dropping with phases of low drop rate and fast drop rate, as seen clearly from graph.

Different parts of the country have seen different phases of growth and drop. A good contrast is state of Maharashtra and Bihar. Both with nearly same population. Economy wise Maharashtra is way ahead of Bihar. During the lockdown phase, many workers from different parts of the country started to return to their native place in Bihar. There was lot of concern expressed about the fate of Bihar with these workers carrying virus with them and Bihar would simply explode with cases and with poor healthcare infrastructure, there would be death and chaos all over. But nothing like that happened! On the other hand Maharashtra had maximum number of cases and contributed about 25-30% of cases of whole country with a peak of more than 3 lakh active cases. Now it is down to about 50,000 cases. Kerala had shown very good results early on. But now it has become the state with highest number of active cases of around 65,000. In fact other than Maharashtra and Kerala, all states have active cases below 20,000. In fact non specific immunity is very crucial to protect us from such viruses and being close to nature is most helpful for this purpose. Role of Vitamin and Minerals, Gut Microbes etc is very important. Many times people attributed rise/fall of cases to governance but Corona seems to have its own ways.

There has been huge drop in positive confirmation percentage, which is now around 2% compared to over 10% at certain stages. This is shown in the plot below.

India kept ramping up the test facility and started testing up to 15 lakh samples per day. As the positive confirmation rates came down, number of positive cases detected per day is now hovering around 20,000 much less than close to 1 lakh cases per day at peak period. This is shown in the plot below:

If we look at the death per day, data it has come down to around 300 compared to about 1200 per day during peak period as shown in plot below.

While we crossed 1 crore infected cases some time back, we are now about to cross 1 Crore recovery cases in about one week. Percentage of recovery has been very high in India and we have 98.5% recovery rate now in closed cases with remaining resulting in unfortunate death. Global average for this is around 97% only. This was not so good in early days with only 70% recovery around April, as shown in the plot below. Looks like we learnt to handle cases better and our health care facilities also improved.

Vaccination preparations in India is starting tomorrow (Jan 2, 2021). I am not sure, how much time it would take for showing its impact but it would be at least few weeks. As per my earlier prediction, we are close to 2.5 lakh active cases by year end. I am expecting this to drop to about 1.5 lakh cases by January end. After that it may oscillate between 1 to 1.5 lakh active cases unless vaccination starts to show its impact and numbers drop to insignificant levels. This may take time till March 2021 or so.

Author: Prabhat Ranjan

Prof. Prabhat Ranjan is Vice Chancellor, D Y Patil International University, Akurdi, Pune. He was heading India's Technology Think Tank, TIFAC( as its Executive Director since April 2013 to April 2018. Earlier he was Professor at Dhirubhai Ambani Institute for Information and Communication Technology, Gandhinagar (DA-IICT) since 2002. He was educated in Netarhat School(near Ranchi), IIT Kharagpur and Delhi University. He received his Ph D from University of California, Berkeley where he carried our research on “Nuclear Fusion” at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory during 1983-86. He immediately returned to India after this and carried out research in Nuclear Fusion area at Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Calcutta and Institute for Plasma Research(IPR), Gandhinagar. He played a major role in India’s Nuclear Fusion program and was Project Leader of the largest operational Indian Fusion Reactor, ADITYA, at Institute for Plasma Research from 1996-2002. His current interests include applications of Wireless Sensor Network to Wildlife, Planetary Exploration (Chandrayaan mission), Nuclear Fusion, Healthcare, Agriculture etc. He has received National Science Talent Search Award, IBM Faculty Innovation Grant and HP Innovate 2009 award, NPEDP-Mphasis Universal Design Award 2012, Bihar Gaurav Samman 2012 etc. In March 2022, he was also honored with EduStar India’s Most Impactful Vice Chancellor Award for 2021-22. He has been recognized by outlook among few visionaries, who can lead India towards 5 Trillion Dollar Economy. He has been also honoured with Maharashtra Ratna Gaurav Puraskar by Shalini Foundation in 2024. He is also recognized among the top “100 Great IITians : Dedicated to the Service of the Nation”.

5 thoughts on “Covid-19 pandemic in India through my eyes”

  1. Thoughtful article with a good insight. Hope for the success of the vaccination approach and eradication of the virus in the coming time.

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