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India Covid deaths weekly projection – 16 Aug update

Every week (since May this year), I look at the existing trend of a) growth in reported Covid deaths and b) growth in the positive cases for India. And then I run few scenarios to forecast when India will cross 1 lakh total reported Covid deaths.

Earlier I was also interested in looking at when the avg daily deaths in a week would cross the 1,000 mark. Back in first week of June, the avg daily death figure was less than 200. I stopped doing that estimate once we reached 700 avg daily deaths.

My video from first week of June 2020

In the video above (will start playing from 06:20), you will see that my “most randomly theoretical conservative” timeline projection for when India would start seeing 1,000 avg daily deaths was the 3rd Sunday of August. That’s today, is it?

Almost 1,000 died yesterday (15 Aug 2020) and at least on two occasions this week, the total daily toll was over 1k.

It’s a good thing that the growth has taken the conservative path (of all my assumptions). Anyway so where do we head from here?

Total cumulative Covid death toll as of yesterday stands at almost 50k (actual figure could be around 1.5 times this value, for various reasons documented here). Remember that a month ago, we were just half of this number (with around 26k dead). So basically total death toll is sort of doubling in a month.

On an average 931 people reportedly died per day this week (compared to 858 last week). That’s more than four fully loaded A320 airplanes crashing and killing every passenger every day.

One could try forecasting the future cumulative deaths by simply using the existing growth rate trend for weekly Covid deaths. There’s just one problem.

The growth trend is not so obvious.

For example as you can see in the above chart, total weekly deaths this week (6500+) was 9% higher than total weekly deaths the week prior to that (6000+). But the weekly growth last week was a much higher 17% and the week before that, an abysmally low 1%.

If one *must* project future Covid deaths just from the above chart, what growth-rate range would you consider? Let me consider three scenarios: week on week deaths grows by 8%, 12% and 16%. Below is how the projection for total cumulative deaths looks like if we extrapolate.

We are at 50k deaths today – we will cross 1 lakh in another 4 to 6 weeks.

Alright, let’s now try a more nuanced (albeit indirect) approach to project cumulative deaths.

Let’s first look at the week-on-week growth rate of total weekly cases (instead of weekly deaths).

4.4 lakh total positive cases were detected this week, which is 11% higher than the total cases detected the week before (3.9 lakh).

Based on the pattern so far, I expect the total weekly cases in the coming weeks to grow by anywhere between 15% to 25% (X). That’s my assumption #1.

Now in general, people who die of Covid in a given week, are either tested positive the same week, or the week before. Do we have some idea of what %age (Y) of such cases die? We do actually.

As you see above, death %age (Y) has been consistently falling since many weeks now and seems to have flattened at 1.6%.

6,500+ people died this week (09-15 Aug) which is 1.6% of half of total cases from this week + half of total cases from last week.

In other words, Y for this week is 1.6% (it was the same last week too, and even the week before).

Let’s assume a range for death %age (Y) from 1.4% to 1.8%? That’s my assumption #2.

Let’s forecast now…

Let me consider 3 scenarios:

  • X=20%, Y=1.6% (baseline)
  • X=15%, Y=1.4% (optimistic: expecting even lesser %ge of deaths)
  • X=25%, Y=1.8% (worse: expecting faster growth in cases AND even higher percentage of deaths)

With the above assumptions, below is how the future cumulative death count looks like:

The projection is pretty much the same as the first direct method I used.

India will cross 1 lakh total deaths by middle of September to Sep-end.

Now, 1 lakh total deaths for India is basically equivalent to 72 deaths per million of the total population.

To what extent would the death toll figures keep going up?

If we look at other countries, death toll for many started to flatten out only after anywhere between 400 to 600 per million of their population died!! Scary, I know!

Y axis = no. of days (all the countries are arranged in a way that starting point of 10 deaths per million is common to all)

If we assume that for India, the death toll flattens out even at say 200 deaths per million, that would be equivalent to ~3 lakh total deaths!

It’s difficult to imagine why India would see any less deaths than that. The only populous countries across the globe where death toll flattened at much lower levels (like say Japan and China) happened when they somehow didn’t let the total deaths cross even 5k (Japan for example didn’t even let it cross 1k). We clearly couldn’t control things to that extent in India (most countries haven’t). So now let’s just be hopeful that the total death cap estimate that I am guessing is on the conservative end – otherwise, we could lose even upto 5 lakh people (or 362 deaths per million)!

That’s it for this post. I’ll get back with updated projections next Sunday (23 Aug). Stay safe.

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