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India Covid deaths weekly projection – 23 Aug update

My big question every week (since May) is, when will India cross 1 lakh total reported Covid deaths? Total cumulative Covid death toll as of yesterday stands at almost 56k (actual figure could be as high as twice this value, for various reasons documented here).

On an average 965 people reportedly died per day this week (compared to 931 last week). That’s five fully loaded A320 airplanes crashing and killing every passenger every day.

One could try forecasting the future deaths by simply using the existing growth rate trend for weekly Covid deaths.

Yes there are many ups and downs as we see above. In fact in earlier weeks, I struggled to spot any trend. But the graph has now started to look somewhat predictable – the weekly deaths seem to be growing at somewhere around 10-15% week-on-week rate. Don’t they?

So I ran three week-on-week growth rate scenarios to see how the cumulative total would look like, in the future.

We are at almost 56k deaths (as of yesterday – 22 AUG). We will cross 1 lakh in another 4 to 5 weeks (most like by 20-26 Sep 2020).

Alright, let’s now try a slightly more nuanced (albeit indirect) approach to project cumulative deaths. Here we will first look at the week-on-week growth rate of total weekly cases (instead of weekly deaths).

4.5 lakh total positive cases were detected this week, which is only 3% higher than the total cases detected the week before (4.4 lakh).

I think this week is an exception. Something is off about “3%” growth rate – unless India has started to peak. Yes we know, some cities are on the verge of peaking.

But India is a big country and for many parts, the growth has started much late, so 3% overall national growth rate in unlikely to repeat (at least this year). Anyway, we shall get more clarity on this in the coming weeks but for now let me assume the w-o-w cases growth rate will bounce back.

For my projection, I will assume a range from 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 around 1.6% since past few weeks.

6,750+ people died this week (16-22 Aug) which is 1.5% of half of total cases from this week + half of total cases from last week.

In other words, Y for this week is 1.5%. For the future, let’s assume a range from 1.3% to 1.5%? That’s my assumption #2.

Let’s forecast now…

Let me consider 3 scenarios:

  • X=15%, Y=1.5% (baseline)
  • X=15%, Y=1.3% (optimistic: lesser %ge of deaths)
  • X=25%, Y=1.5% (worse: expecting faster growth in cases)

With the above assumptions, below chart represents the future cumulative death count:

The result is more or less the same as that from the first direct method I used.

India will cross 1 lakh total deaths by Sep-end.

Now, 1 lakh total deaths for India is basically equivalent to 72 deaths per million of the total population (currently we are a little over 40).

To what extent would the death toll figures keep going up – before it flattens / peaks?

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 (30 Aug). Stay safe.

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