Categories
Covid-times

India Covid deaths weekly projection – 04 Oct update

REPORTED DEATH TOLL HAS CROSSED 1 LAKH BUT INDIA SEEMS TO BE APPROACHING THE PEAKING POINT NOW. ABOUT 50,000 MORE WILL DIE BY NOVEMBER AND AFTER THAT, WE WOULD MOSTLY FLAT OUT! THIS IS GOOD.


My big question every week (since May) has been, when will India cross 1 lakh total reported Covid deaths? It happened this week.

The actual Covid death toll could be as high as twice the ‘reported’ figures, for various reasons documented here.

On a global level, if you just look at total number of reported Covid deaths, you will find that India is at no. 3. But the moment you adjust for population (which makes more sense), you realize that India is in a much better position (the pink line; US is dark blue, Brazil green, UK light blue and Canada red).

Source – FT – Plot generated and screenshot taken on 04 Oct 2020

1 lakh total deaths for India translates to 73 deaths per million (Brazil is 900% higher than India’s per million deaths).

It will take many months for India to reach the kind of deaths per million figures that Brazil or US have already seen (if it ever does). After looking at data from the present and previous weeks, it doesn’t look like things will ever get that bad in India.

In any case, there are many countries doing better then India and there are many others that are doing worse (once you adjust for population and compare).

One could try forecasting the future Covid deaths in India by simply using the existing week-on-week growth in deaths.

Chart created by Amrit Vatsa on 04 Oct 2020 from publicly available data

For two consecutive weeks, total weekly deaths in India has continued to decline. This never happened before! And this is great news!

For future growth / decline estimate, -2% (baseline), -4% (better case) and +2% (worse case) assumption sounds good?

This is how the forecast looks like, for the following three scenarios.

Chart created by Amrit Vatsa on 04 Oct 2020 from publicly available data

It is quite possible now that India’s total death toll may not cross 2 lakh (145 deaths per million) this year. Both US and Brazil are already over 600 per million dead.

If what I am saying happens, chances are we will flat out below 200 deaths per million (similar to Canada that peaked after crossing 200 – if you scroll up and check the FT chart I put up).

Fingers crossed.

Let’s now try a slightly more nuanced (albeit indirect) approach to project future deaths that requires looking first at cases. Cases are important because even when you don’t die, just being infected seems to have its own issues.

From ‘brain fog’ to heart damage, COVID-19’s lingering problems alarm scientists

ScienceMag.Org

At a global level, when adjusted for population – total reported cases for India (pink in the below chart) are low when compared to the worst performers (US – dark blue, Brazil – green) but already higher than Canada (red) and could cross UK (light blue) soon.

Source – FT – Plot generated and screenshot taken on 04 Oct 2020

Anyway so like deaths, for cases too, if we look at the week-on-week growth, we can have some idea of how it’s probably going to grow / decline in the next few weeks.

~5.7 lakh total positive cases were detected this week, which is 4% lower than the total cases detected the week before (~6 lakh).

I am aware of the issues with low testing but I am not sure that’s the only explanation for decline in weekly cases.

I think India is now approaching the peaking point.

Let’s call this w-o-w growth in cases – ‘X’. X was -8% last week and +2% the week before (see the above chart). X=-4% this week. For my projection, I think I will assume a range of -2 to +2% for X in the coming weeks.

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

7,463 Covid deaths were recorded this week, which is basically 1.3% of half of total cases from this week + half of total cases from last week.

Let’s call this %age Y; Y= 1.3%.

For the future, let’s assume a range of 1.2% to 1.4%?

So we can forecast now – I am going with the following 3 scenarios:

  • X=0%, Y=1.3% (baseline)
  • X=-2%, Y=1.2% (optimistic: growth in cases declines + lesser %ge of deaths)
  • X=+2%, Y=1.4% (worse: cases grow + higher death %age )

With the above assumptions, below chart shows the future cumulative death count.

We will see around 50,000 more deaths by November, but once India crosses 2 lakh, the toll would not increase much beyond that.

Before I end, below is a new Covid insight that you all should be aware of!

That’s it for this post. I’ll get back with updated projections next Sunday (11 Oct). Stay safe.

Categories
VATSANALYSIS

The myth of the paid subscription model for news.

If you are not paying for the product, you are the product, right? The newspapers / publications / independent bloggers that want their content behind a paywall, definitely want you to believe so.

The proposed logic is simple – when you pay, the publishers / writers don’t have to rely on ad money (or the money from rich businessmen / trusts). This we are told, leads to two things – a) freedom and b) quality.

Freedom of press refers to the freedom of the journalist / publication to pursue and put out whatever story they feel is important, without any political / commercial pressure. Quality is a broad term that I am using to refer to the many aspects of the coverage itself – how well researched the content is, how unbiased it is, insights, verification level, professionalism etc.

I took an insta poll last week asking my followers that if they had to choose between freedom and quality, what would they choose. I received about 40 responses. 60% voted for freedom, 40% for quality.

A. Freedom of Press – does ‘paid subscription’ model have a positive impact?

Without freedom of press, how will stories about atrocities / wrongdoings of the powerful come out? A Modi or an Ambani should not be able to influence what stories are put out and what buried.

It should be kept in mind that criticizing those in power is only one of the many journalistic objectives (also called playing the role of a detached investigative watchdog). Over the years, in various countries, journalists have played other roles too (and continue to). These other roles include:

  • bringing out facts (with objectivity) for the public (with some context but minimum opinion);
  • analyzing facts underpinning key issues;
  • being critical change agents (by influencing public opinion and advocating for social change – this is going beyond just being a ‘detached watchdog’ and may include actively encouraging citizen involvement); and
  • acting as opportunist facilitators (i.e. supporting those in power – which is a good thing only when a disturbed nation is seeking some stability and a new government has typically just come in power).

Anyway, so freedom of press is a big problem in our country right now. India ranks 140th in the World Press Freedom Index (of total 180 countries that are included). There is a detailed NY Times article (unfortunately behind a paywall) on this topic, if you want to read more.

Will a subscription based model really solve this freedom problem? How about we look at the top performers in the World Press Freedom (WPF) rankings and dissect them a little?

Source: rsf.org

So the Nordic countries are on the top. Is news mostly free in these countries or the freedom comes from paid subscriptions?

Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism / Digital News Report 2020 – link

42% of Norwegians pay for their news. That’s great – the more people pay for news, the better freedom of press, right?

But wait, look at Finland and Denmark (no. 2 and no. 2 on WPF). Less than 20% pay for news and yet US which is slightly better than them in terms of paid news subscribers, does not even rank in top ten! In fact, US ranks 45th! What’s really happening here?

In Portugal (no. 10 in WPF ranking) only 10% pay for news (same as Germany which ranks just below Portugal at no. 11).

Freedom of press and paid-subscription doesn’t seem to have any correlation.

While it is possible that if you take money from Ambani / Adani, you may find it difficult to talk against them, to make this scenario sound like the only possible scenario is a bit much. Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post in 2013. But it does not mean that the publication by default remains silent when it comes to criticizing Bezos.

In any case, even if you don’t take any money from Ambai / Adani / Amazon, if there is an overall culture where journalists are labelled ‘prestitutes‘, targeted and killed (the way it frequently happens in India – one of the main reasons why it ranks so bad in the freedom index), subscription model is not necessarily going to ensure much freedom. Arnab Goswami does not necessarily lick the BJP government’s ass because poor Arnab has no way to get subscription money. Arnab does it because that’s what he wants to do and he has access to the business model that works for him. The intent of the publication / journalist / media house comes first; the enablers and business models come later.

Let’s also for a moment think of one of the benefits of a free press – the publication / journalists can report on all important issues without pressure. Is Climate Change an important issue? I hope most of you say yes.

So say between Sweden (press freedom rank 4) and US (press freedom rank 45), if we did a poll of its citizens to check which populace took Climate Change more seriously, what do you think would the result be?

Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism / Digital News Report 2020 – link

40% in US believe that Climate Change is an extremely serious problem but less than 20% of Swedes think so!

Being ‘free’ does not automatically equate to making use of that freedom as some media houses / journalists would like to believe! And in any case, you do not necessarily have to get away from ad money to exercise your freedom. Quint does a fabulous job of putting out stories that matter – 95% of its revenue comes from advertisement!

By the way, it’s not that we Indians don’t pay for our news. ~25% of the English language, internet using respondents for example, said in a Reuters survey that they have paid in some form, for some kind of digital news in the last year. [Source]

Of the respondents who do not currently pay, almost 40% said they are at least ‘somewhat likely’ to pay for news in the next year (much more than users in the United States).

Source

It is okay if some publications / writers get the subscription model going for them. Whatever works! I myself pay for one Indian publication (Business Standard), one US publication (NY Times) and one UK publication (The Economist). But I do not necessarily do so because the free ad-based news that I also consume, has no freedom and can no way put out stories that those behind paywalls can!

There are many reasons why people pay for news – supporting independence of press is at best a justification from those who pay, than any proven positive impact on freedom.

Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism / Digital News Report 2020 – link

B. Quality of news – does subscription model have an impact?

When you pay for a product, the makers have an incentive to make the product better. But is news really a product? No.

Journalism is not simply the aggregation of content. It is not a product, but a process, a way to search for truth and a conversation, not a lecture.

Richard M. Perloff, The Dynamics of News: Journalism in the 21st-Century Media Milieu

And what this means is, taking care of market economics is simply not enough (or the most important criteria) for good journalism.

If paying for news meant better news, most people who paid for news would have rated their consumption better and more reliable, right? But look at the reality.

The above chart shows us that the average trust is independent of whether something is behind a paywall or not! Below is how we Indians trust our news sources.

Source

Most of the Indian brands listed above make money primarily from ads! The business model of a news publication and the quality does not have a proven correlation. But generally if a publication is running ads of big brands, it is unlikely for the quality to be low. So as far as quality goes, ad-model >> subscription model.

Early American newspapers like Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette and Alexander Hamilton’s Gazette of the United States were unashamedly partisan. … As they sought wider audiences in the 19th century, newspapers became more concerned with what they called “realism”. … And advertisers wanted less partisan coverage to sit alongside their messages.

The Economist, Jul 2020

Ad-money lead to news quality getting better – getting more objective.

Another way to think of why paying customers do not necessarily lead to the ‘product’ getting better is to think of mainstream Bollywood / Hollywood films – truck load of shitty movies in spite of paying customers. What about shitty Bollywood music of the 90s when we were still buying audio cassettes? When a business model depends upon a buying customer, the producer just ends up optimizing the cost of production and the sales-volume. Journalism should never work like that.

Why is everyone really talking about paid subscriptions then?

It is the failure of most media houses to retain the ad-money flow that they once had, that’s behind the push to make the ‘paid subscription based model’ work. It is not driven by a noble cause of freedom of press or quality of reportage – although both can definitely be achieved in this model too.

In fact, on the question of who should be primarily responsible for solving a key quality aspect of news – the misinformation problem – over 60% Indians think it is the government’s job.

Source

I earlier showed how other than Norway, the other Nordic countries in the top ten World Press Freedom list have lesser paid subscriber %age compared to US. The reason they have such higher freedom of press in spite of low paid subscribers is because of their governments!

In the Nordic countries, the states have played a key role by giving the press a high degree of operational freedom and helping it financially through subsidies.

The strong position of public service media fit with the welfare ideal where the media – supported by the state – are judged to play an important role in citizens’ well being alongside other public institutions and the societal responsibility of the journalists is emphasized.

A Welfare State of Mind? – Journalism Studies, Vol 18 2017

If you read the above cited paper (behind paywall) – you will also note that the most independent press in the world (in these Nordic countries) typically restricts its role to being detached watchdogs. They generally refrain from taking on the role of ‘critical change agents’ (that I explained in the beginning, involves influencing public opinion and advocating for social change).

Irrespective of whether you make money from ads or paid subscribers, if the governments comes after journalists, would there be enough freedom? Unlikely. We need a truly free media and yet paid subscriptions doesn’t necessarily ensure it.

Anyway, so now we know that the potential benefits of the subscription model are pretty debatable (even when logically, they sound so perfect, no)?

The follow-up question is: are there any problems that the paid subscription model itself creates? Plenty!

Paywall problems

#1 Readers love opinions

Theoretically, you have the freedom to put out whatever story that you desire. But can you? When you have paying readers, you have to cater to their tastes. And unlike advertisers, readers love opinions.

The incentive to keep readers happy – and the penalty for failing – are greater than ever.

The Economist, Jul 2020

I love the below observation by an IIT senior who has been a writer for many years now.

It’s interesting that back when the New York Times was [just] a dead-tree periodical, it had a tagline that went “all the news that’s fit to print”. Now that it’s gone online, got a paywall and had to get into real time news, it’s become an outrage machine.”

Pertinent Observations, 30 Sep 2020

#2 Information inequality

Not everyone can afford paid subscriptions, so those with less money get left out from accessing it. Who do they rely on for great quality news?

We saw earlier that in US, ~20% pay for access to pay-walled news. 24% of them are also concerned about others missing out on what they read.

Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism / Digital News Report 2020

#3 Subscription fatigue

Even those who have subscriptions, soon run into a subscription fatigue – how many publications can you really subscribe to? And then you have other subscriptions to take care of as well, like Netflix.

When everything goes behind paywall, you would most likely miss out on a diverse coverage at the cost of a hypothetical freedom of press / better quality.

Although the number of readers paying for online news has increased in many countries, this trend is driven by a ‘winner-take-most’ trend in which large national news brands draw the highest proportion of subscribers. Around half of those that subscribe to any online or combined package in the United States use the New York Times or the Washington Post and a similar proportion subscribe to either The Times or the Telegraph in the UK.

The average (median) number of news subscriptions per person – among those that pay – is just ‘one’ even in high-income households in the US.

To sum up, a journalist can have freedom both in a subscription model and an ad-driven model (or a mix of both, with varying ratio) or even in a charity / donation model (that say Wikipedia deploys). Indians are indeed willing to support donation models too. In a survey, 37% showed support.

Source

In fact this is the model I advocate for my own writing – I want my wiring to be open to all, but ‘patrons’ are always welcome. If you want to fund my work, feel free. I would be grateful.

Likewise, freedom of press can be exercised both in ad-driven model and in a subscription model. There are way more factors at play than just the economics here. What matters at the end of the day is that journalists get to do a good job (and not just view their content as a product) and get paid one way or another.

I want to leave you with the following parting commentary, borrowed from here.

Journalism is facing stiff competition for attention and its connection with the public is threatened by news avoidance, low trust, and the perception that news does not help people live the lives they want to live. But in many ways, the best journalism today is better than ever – more accessible, more timely, more informative, more interactive, more engaged with its audience.

REUTERS INSTITUTE REPORTJANUARY2019

That will be all for this blog. Hope you learnt something.

Categories
Gyaan VATSANALYSIS

Explained – why ‘be proud of Hindu culture’ pages / accounts really exist.

Let me introduce you to this beautiful insta account with 122k+ followers.

Alright let’s get going. Can’t wait to know my Bharat more. What can be as harmless as a page that is just about making one aware about ancient science?

OK. So this ‘ancient’ trivia wants us Hindus to feel ashamed that a temple was taken away from an Indian currency note?

The year ‘1954’ makes me wonder – was Nehru the fake Hindu behind it?

No wait, here’s the reality – this currency was very much in circulation all the way till 1978 when it was finally demonetized by the most anti Congress Government ever – the Janata Party. Morarji Desai of Janata Party was the first non-Congress prime minister in independent modern India’s history (there was no BJP then).

While the 1,000 rupees note was at least real, the above are fake coins! These are not currency coins but “temple tokens”!

One of the objectives of such accounts / sites is to make Hindus feel that the past was so much better for them and that the present represses their freedom.

Many of you will be surprised to note that this literally is like the fist rule of fascism – “build a mythic past”.

How fascism works!

Below is the table of content from a book that I read recently (How fascism works). Note the name of the first chapter.

Alright, let’s get back to the “ancient_science” account now…

When the mythic past is being built, a language is not just that – it is so much more – something that facilitates ‘unfoldment of higher awareness’! A language is not just a means to express ideas and discoveries (like this blog) but something that ’emulates the mantric sounds of the cosmic mind’!

Is it by any chance possible that the Vedas were written in Sanskrit because that was the *only* language that the authors knew to write in?

I crosschecked some of the above quotes and guess what, they are legit. But there are two issues with the post. First, the headline – “Influenced by Hindu Dharma”.

All these guys read some Hindu texts (like Gita). And there is a reason. They were all trying to find the connection between physics and philosophy and that meant they had to read up the well known philosophies (including eastern and Hindu philosophy of which Swami Vivekananda was a great spreader of, during this time). This explains the quotes – not endorsement of Hindu dharma.

The word dharma encompasses duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and “right way of living” – none of these scientists have ever proclaimed that the Hindu / Sanatana dharma influenced them. But of course that shouldn’t come in the way of evoking the pride that we must attach to being Hindus.

The second issue with this post is that it makes use of what’s called the halo effect to fool one’s brain. I have written about the halo effect in another blog, but in short – it is our instinctive disability that makes us believe that if someone is good in some aspects, that person is good in all aspects (and vice-versa).

For example, Tesla (quoted above) disagreed with the theory of atoms being composed of smaller subatomic particles, stating there was no such thing as an electron creating an electric charge! Today, any school student will tell that Tesla was wrong. This doesn’t necessarily make Tesla a fool. And yet it doesn’t necessarily mean that every single quote of Tesla is of value! Same goes with others.

Yes. Just like below is the beauty of Islam?

And what about this? Beauty of Sikhism?

Let’s get to the beauty of temples now…

Posts like these try to make you feel proud of the kind of amazing temples Hindus built centuries ago. Except that the construction of this ‘ancient’ structure was started in 1990!

There is a much older ancient temple (not so instagram-worthy) in the same place too. But the Gopuram that you see in the image is not that. It’s common for Gopurams to be added to older temples. Both the Gopuram and a Shiva statue were funded by NRI business tycoon B R Shetty. And it’s a great thing if religious rich folks build grand Gopurams or temples. I have nothing against them really. I am only trying to show you the overall motivation of insta accounts that put together posts like these. They don’t care about B R Shetty or the great work that he did. What do they care about? You will see for yourself. Just read on!

Is there any reason for us H for Hindus to be not super proud of such glorious past? Tell me. What else did our ancestors have in mind other than to make a ‘fashion statement’? Apparently, a lot!

This 12th-century Hindu temple was commissioned by King Vishnuvardhana in 1117 CE, on the banks of the Yagachi River in Belur (then Velapura – an early Hoysala Empire capital). The temple was built over three generations and took over hundred years to finish. It was repeatedly damaged and plundered during wars and repeatedly rebuilt and repaired over its history.

In 1774, Haidar Ali was the de facto ruler on behalf of the Wadiyar dynasty. Ali got the temple repaired (a Hindu officer was given the task). In 1935, parts of the temple was cleaned and restored with financing by the Mysore government and grants by the Wadiyar dynasty. [source]

Now here’s an interesting bit that some of you proud Hindus may find rather offensive – the temple artwork depicts scenes of secular life in the 12th century, dancers and musicians. It is a Vaishnava temple that reverentially includes many themes from Shaivism and Shaktism, as well as images of a Jina from Jainism and the Buddha from Buddhism.

One more illustrious insight? The Vijayanagara Empire sponsored the addition of smaller shrines in the temple complex, dedicated to goddesses and the Naganayakana mandapa that were constructed by collecting the war ruins of other demolished temples in Belur area and reusing them!

Posts from accounts like “ancient_science” remain silent on all such details, by design. These accounts don’t exist to teach you history. They just want to use selective / distorted and if needed, fake history to help create a mythical past for you.

If one can convince a population that they are rightfully exceptional, that they are destined by nature or by religious fate to rule other populations, one has already convinced them of a monstrous lie.

In a glorious past that fascism aims to create, members of the chosen community had their ‘rightful’ place at the top that set the cultural and economic agenda for everyone else.

“Now” this is a masjid. There are only two minor issues. “Now” = 15th century! Yes this has been a mosque since 15th century! And the second minor issue – the claim that this was once a temple is unverified! Of course. Just don’t take it to the Supreme Court because you know what happens in the end.

The photograph is real and not photoshopped if that’s what you are wondering. It is Daitya Sudan temple situated in Lonar, Maharashtra.

There is no record as such of how one of the gates has this Islamic architecture looking upper half thingy but let’s just assume an Islamic invasion it must have been. What lazy invaders, then?

It’s interesting that this insta account teaches us nothing about temple demolition beyond an Islamic war against Hinduism. So let me talk about it then. Learning some more history is not harmful, is it?

Recorded instances of Indian kings attacking the temples of their political rivals date from at least the eighth century, when Bengali troops destroyed what they thought was the image of Vishnu Vaikuntha, Kashmir’s state deity under King Lalitaditya (r. 724–60).

This is from the book India in the Persianage Age 1000-1765.

  • In the early tenth century, the Rashtrakuta monarch Indra III not only demolished the temple of Kalapriya (at Kalpi near the Jamuna River), patronized by the Rashtrakutas’ deadly enemies the Pratiharas, but took special delight in recording the fact;
  • In the late eleventh century, the Kashmiri King Harsha raised the plundering of enemy temples to an institutionalized activity;
  • In the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, kings of the Paramara dynasty attacked and plundered Jain temples in Gujarat.

And you know what, I am not going to judge them. The way temples and religions and Hindus and Muslims are talked about in the present was NOT how they were viewed and talked about in the past. And therefore, using selected real / fake stories from past to influence the present thinking is nothing but a means to manipulate into imagining things a certain way!

Austrians are the biggest shiv-bhakts you see. And Shivji must have one day accidentally gone to Alps instead of Himalayas.

Every cylindrical ling / phallus shaped thing in the world is a proof of the spread of our culture. What is the lie in this? Leaning tower of Pisa? Shiv ling. The Qutab Minar? Shivling. You have to be blind to not see it.

The Eisriesenwelt (German for “World of the Ice Giants”) is a natural limestone and ice cave located in Werfen, Austria, about 40 km south of Salzburg. The cave is inside the Hochkogel mountain in the Tennengebirge section of the Alps. It is the largest ice cave in the world, extending more than 42 km and visited by about 200,000 tourists every year.

At least the ice-cave photo from Austria was factually correct. But see that “Sudhwara – Africa – 6000 years” image in the above grid? That is not even from Africa! I did a reverse image search and it turns out that structure is in Ireland!

The understanding of and the respect for our own mythological past and our own history will form the first condition for more firmly anchoring the coming generation in the soil of Europe’s original homeland.

Alfred Rosenberg – a leading Nazi ideologue and editor of the prominent Nazi newspaper the Völkischer Beobachter (1924)

Yay. Victim. But wait, not really?

India Today Anti Fake News War Room (AFWA) has found the claim to be false. Pakistani Hindus celebrated the Shivratri festival in Karachi between February 21 and 23, 2020.

India Today

In a 1922 speech at the Fascist Congress in Naples, Benito Mussolini declared – “we have created our myth. The myth is a faith, a passion. It is not necessary for it to be a reality. Our myth is the nation, our myth is the greatness of the nation! And to this myth, this greatness, which we want to translate into a total reality, we subordinate everything”.

Of course!

Fascist leaders appeal to history to replace the actual historical record with a glorious mythic replacement that, in its specifics, can serve their political ends and their ultimate goal of replacing facts with power.

Such pride inducing ancient science! Could it possibly be untrue?

The astrolabe was invented in Hellenistic Greece around the second century, but it was the Islamic world which preserved this Greek knowledge, elaborated upon it and then disseminated it eastwards up to India and westwards up to England.

In his India, Al Biruni claims to have composed a manual on the astrolabe in Sanskrit verse. The work does not survive, but it is quite probable that Al Biruni had brought the astrolabe with him and taught its working principles to his Hindu interlocutors at Multan in the first quarter of the eleventh century.

Proceedings of the 13th World Sanskrit Conference

OK, one last example and then I am done.

Aww – so beautiful. Let me quote something from a renowned Dalit activist and writer – Kancha Illaiah.

Hinduism has been claiming that the Dalitbahujans are Hindus, but at the same time their very Gods are openly against them. As a result, this religion, from its very inception, has a fascist nature, which can be experienced and understood only by the Dalitbahujans, not by Brahmins who regard the manipulation and exploitation as systemic and not as part of their own individual consciousness.

…unless one examines in detail how all the main Hindu Gods are only killers and oppressors of the Dalitbahujans, and how the Dalitbahujan castes have built a cultural tradition of their own, and Gods and Goddesses of their own (who have never been respected by the brahminical castes), one cannot open up the minds of the Dalitbahujans to reality.

Why I Am Not a Hindu – Kancha Illaiah

The dangers of fascist politics come from the particular way in which it dehumanizes segments of the population. It aims to limit your capacity for empathy, leading to the justification of inhumane treatment, from repression of freedom, mass imprisonment, and expulsion to, in extreme cases, mass extermination. Go check out the kind of comments the account attracts and you will see what is true intended outcome of running such accounts – it’s succeeding in its job. In the mean time that I wrote this blog, it added 2,000 more followers.

So now you know why accounts like “ancient_science” exist – they play their role in promoting fascism. Let someone else know too?

Categories
Covid-times Gyaan

‘Invisible women’ in the Covid times

Thalidomide is a medication used to treat a number of cancers and skin conditions including complications of leprosy. The developers of the drug claimed that they “could not find a dose high enough to kill a rat” and so thalidomide was freely available since 1950s in stores as a mild over-the counter medication in many countries.In 1960, doctors began prescribing it to pregnant women who suffered from morning sickness.

It turned out that while the drug didn’t kill rats, it did affect foetal development. Before it was finally taken off the market in 1962, over 10,000 children had been born around the world with thalidomide-related disabilities! You can read a detailed story by NY Times.

Because of this scandal, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) issued guidelines in 1977 excluding women of childbearing potential from drug trials!

But what happens when you exclude a certain group from clinical trial? Be it pregnant women or women altogether?

Over the last few weeks I have been reading a super insightful book – Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez. Actually, I had started to read it long back (last year I think), but then got overwhelmed by the data / insights and had to take a break. I am glad I resumed. It is still overwhelming but one must read as much as one can.

Caroline essentially quotes examples after examples of how almost everything that is made / designed in the ‘man’-made world, miserably fails to take into account the specific needs of women. This reflects in design of roads to malls to phones to piano to drugs to vaccines.

Just because something works for men in a certain way does not mean it will necessarily work the same way for women. And that’s a problem when women are not represented adequately in any kind of user impact study.

In 2000 for example, the FDA had to force drug manufacturers to remove phenyl-propanolamine, a component of many over-the-counter medications, from all products because of a reported increased risk of bleeding into the brain or into tissue around the brain in women, but not in men.

To understand the difference between male and female bodies, at the most basic level you need to realize that women typically tend to have a higher body-fat percentage than men. This, along with the fact that blood-flow to fat tissue is greater in women, affects how women metabolise certain drugs. Also, male gut transit times are about half the length of women’s! This means women may need to wait for longer after eating before taking medications that need to be absorbed on an empty stomach.

When it comes to vaccine, it is well proven that women develop higher antibody responses and have more frequent and severe adverse reactions to vaccines.

The mechanisms leading to these differences can be:

  • hormonal (i.e. the different effects of testosterone, oestrogens or progesterone);
  • genetic (biological females have two X chromosomes while males have only one); or
  • related to differences in intestinal bacteria.

And yet, most phase 1 clinical trials – a) don’t bother to study sex specific results and b) don’t enroll women in adequate numbers in the first place! How many drugs that would work for women are being ruled out at phase 1 trials just because they don’t work in men? Nobody knows!

Sex matters even in animal trials. In a 2007 analysis of animal studies where rats of both sexes were identified, it was observed that in over half the studies, the drug-effect depended upon the sex of the animal! And yet, most animal tests don’t bother to sex-tag the results (if they at all get enough of male and female animals in the first place).

By the way sex and gender have different implications – and to those not clear on the difference between the two terms, the below figure is self explanatory.

Source

So how are we doing gender / sex wise in terms of analyzing Covid’s effect or vaccine development?

Most states are doing a bad job of reporting sex / gender aggregated data.

Bad quality of sex / gender aggregated data = a vaccine / drug that is designed mostly for men.

Source

In a still to be peer-reviewed study, researchers have found that only 416 of the 2,484 Covid-19 clinical trials mention sex / gender as a recruitment criterion on the ClinicalTrials.gov database. [Source]

During the time of ancient Greeks, the female body was seen as a ‘mutilated male’ body – ovaries were female testicles and didn’t have a name for themselves till the 17th century! For millennia, medicine has functioned on the assumption that male bodies can represent humanity as a whole. A 2008 analysis of a range of textbooks recommended by ‘twenty of the most prestigious universities in Europe, US and Canada’ revealed that across 16,000+ images, male bodies were used three times as often as female!

For things to change in the future, we all need to be at least aware of the implicit data bias that exists in every single aspect of our lives – before enough people can even begin to make noticeable noise about it. I can only hope that happens sooner than later.

If you found the insights in this blog fascinating and yet reading an entire book on this topic is a bit much, at least check out this Guardian article that has a lot more examples of data bias for women and how it affects them, even kills them.

Categories
Covid-times

India Covid deaths weekly projection – 27 Sep update

FOR THE FIRST TIME, THE TOTAL NEW CASES REPORTED IN A WEEK WERE LESS THAN THAT IN THE PREVIOUS WEEK!
HAS INDIA PEAKED ALREADY?
IN ANY CASE, INDIA WILL CROSS 1 LAKH REPORTED COVID DEATHS THIS WEEK (93K+ DEATHS PRESENTLY).


My big question every week (since May) is, when will India cross 1 lakh total reported Covid deaths? It will happen this week as we enter October.

Total cumulative Covid death toll as of yesterday (26 Sep) stands at 93k+ (actual figure could be as high as twice this value, for various reasons documented here).

On a global level, if you just look at total number of reported Covid deaths, you will find that India is at no. 3. But the moment you adjust for population (which makes more sense), you realize that India is in a much better position (the pink line; US is dark blue, Brazil green, UK light blue and Canada red).

93k total deaths means ~68 deaths per million (Brazil is almost ten times that figure). It will take many months for India to reach the kind of deaths per million figures that Brazil or US have already seen (if it does).

The reason I just compared India with literally the worst performers is not so that like Modi, I can claim it’s all good – I am just making sure you see things for how they are. There are many countries doing better then India and there are many others that are doing worse (once you adjust for population and compare).

One could try forecasting the future Covid deaths in India by simply using the existing week-on-week growth in deaths.

Chart created by Amrit Vatsa on 27 Sep 2020 from publicly available data

This is the first time that weekly death growth in India went significantly below zero percent!

Only once earlier, the growth had been negative (just shy of zero – in the 23-29 Aug week). For future average weekly growth estimate, 2% to 10% growth range sounds good?

This is how the forecast looks like, for the following three scenarios.

We will cross 1 lakh Covid deaths this week and then will touch 2 lakh by early December (2 lakh total deaths for India would be equivalent to 144 deaths per million; both US and Brazil are already over 590 per million dead). Even a relatively better performer Canada peaked only after crossing 200 deaths per million.

Alright, let’s now try a slightly more nuanced (albeit indirect) approach to project future deaths. This requires looking first at cases. Cases are important because even when you don’t die, just being infected seems to have its own issues.

From ‘brain fog’ to heart damage, COVID-19’s lingering problems alarm scientists

ScienceMag.Org

At a global level, when adjusted for population – total reported cases for India (pink in the below chart) are low when compared to the worst performers (US – dark blue, Brazil – green) but already higher than Canada (red) and will cross UK (light blue) soon.

Anyway so like deaths, for cases too, if we look at the week-on-week growth, we can have some idea of how it’s probably going to grow in the next few weeks.

~6 lakh total positive cases were detected this week, which is 8% lower than the total cases detected the week before (6.5 lakh)

I will not conclude that India has peaked already unless total cases continue to be negative week after week. This week could just have been an anomaly.

Let’s call this w-o-w growth in cases – ‘X’. X was 2% last week and 14% the week before (see the above chart). X=-8% this week. For my projection, I think I can assume a range of 2 to 10% for X in the coming weeks.

Let me also make sure you understand how growth works – when something grows at 10% every week, it means it will double in less than two months. But if it grows at 2%, it would take almost nine months for it to double!

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

7,760 Covid deaths were recorded this week, which is basically 1.2% of half of total cases from this week + half of total cases from last week.

Let’s call this %age Y; Y= 1.2%.

For the future, let’s assume a range of 1% to 1.2%?

So we can forecast now – I am going with the following 3 scenarios:

  • X=5%, Y=1.1% (baseline)
  • X=2%, Y=1% (optimistic: slower growth in cases + lesser %ge of deaths)
  • X=10%, Y=1.2% (worse: expecting faster growth in cases)

With the above assumptions, below chart shows the future cumulative death count.

What’s going to happen this week doesn’t change (crossing 1 lakh) but this indirect estimate for deaths tells us that only in the worse case scenario will we cross 2 lakh in 1st week of December.

India will cross 1 lakh total deaths this week and will probably touch 2 lakh in December.

Now, 1 lakh total deaths for India is basically equivalent to 72 deaths per million of the total population (currently we are at 68 per million Covid deaths).

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!

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 no. of deaths than that. Let’s look at some of our cities / small states.

Y axis represents weeks; 1= the week when the city / state first reached ~10 deaths per million

Pune for example, has crossed 800 deaths per million.

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 up to 5 lakh people (or 362 deaths per million)!

That’s it for this post. I’ll get back with updated projections next Sunday (04 Oct). Stay safe.

Categories
Newsletter

Vatsap? 2020 Sep 20 Newsletter

Every Sunday, I share with you my creations, weekly discoveries and analysis of how the world works. Subscribe here.


Do things get easier or harder for me in the second phase of my Myanmar shoot?

This is my ongoing BTS video-series that I had finished shooting in Feb. In case you have not yet seen the earlier episodes, here is the link to part 1 and 2. Watch these – you will have fun.

Did you know that when you just watch someone having fun, your own brain registers the same activity as it would do, when you yourself are having fun?

That’s the magic of mirror neurons – that are used to study empathy. Talking about empathy, let me ask you something.

If everyone had friends from minority groups, would there be less bigotry overall?

I explore the answer to this question in my new blog. I also introduce a very interesting 2019 book called ’The War For Kindness’.

Some people don’t think bigotry can be brought down by ‘friendships’ (because friendship is easily faked / can be just superficial). But then, there actually is enough evidence to suggest that bringing people together, does work (CONTACT HYPOTHESIS). Read my blog – there are some very interesting experimental data that I have shared. It’s a short insightful read.

You can also listen to this Contact Hypothesis topic on my podcast. Search for VATSANALYSIS on your favourite podcast-platform and do subscribe.

Not all bigotry is natural of course.

View this post on Instagram

Why you so predictable Arnab?

A post shared by Vatsap? (@amritvatsa) on

What Arnab does in his show for example, is by design. A performance. I had fun this week creating music to bring out how predictable this asshole is. Watch the above 1 minuter. If you want a more ‘melodic’ take on Arnab’s by-design stupidity, Mayur never disappoints.

Irrespective of what other drama is happening in our country, Covid is still around and only getting stronger. Once again, I do have my weekly death projection updates ready.

Reported death count now stands at over 85k. We will cross 1 lakh deaths in just two more weeks (as per my estimates – that I have explained in my blog). And if the growth continues the way it has been, another 1 lakh will be dead just in October and November!

Check out my full analysis to see how we have no other option but to live under the shadow of Covid for many more months to come. Not all shadows suck this much though.

When shadow becomes art…

While you cannot have a tree inside your room, you can definitely have plants. If you’ve been discouraged from getting plants because your room doesn’t get plenty of sunlight, check out this super useful Twitter thread by @batonthemoon where she shares a wonderful list of plants that you can easily grow in a window-less room! You are almost towards the end of this newsletter now.

Oh by the way, you should also check out what my friend Shweta creates on her @amillionforestdotcom insta channel. Below is a photo I recently took of Princy (my wife), with one of Shweta’s creations – some very cool planty stuff.

Now that we are on the theme of plants and nature, let’s look at what’s happening in one particular rice field and as we watch, let’s exclaim together…

WHAT THE DUCK!!

That’s all for this week. Stay safe, consume less, create more, make this world a better place and I will get back to you next Sunday!

Categories
Covid-times

India Covid deaths weekly projection – 20 Sep update

85K+ HAVE REPORTEDLY DIED ALREADY.
WE WILL CROSS 1 LAKH DEATHS IN 2 MORE WEEKS AND AT THE PRESENT RATE, ANOTHER ONE LAKH WOULD BE DEAD BY NOV END.


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 (19 Sep) stands at 85k+ (actual figure could be as high as twice this value, for various reasons documented here). Remember that this number was just over forty thousand in first week of August.

On a global level, if you just look at total number of reported Covid deaths, you will find that India is at no. 3. But the moment you adjust for population (which makes more sense), you realize that India is in a much better position (the pink line; US is blue, Brazil green).

85k total deaths means just over 60 deaths per million (Brazil is ten times that figure). It will take many months for India to reach the kind of deaths per million figures that Brazil or US have already seen. The reason I just compared India with literally the worst performers is not so that like Modi, I can claim it’s all good – I am just making sure you see things for how they are. There are many countries doing better then India and there are many others that are doing worse (once you adjust for population and compare).

One could try forecasting the future Covid deaths in India by simply using the existing week-on-week growth in deaths.

Yes there are many ups and downs in the weekly growth of Covid deaths but if one has to extrapolate, a 5% to 15% growth range seems to be a good guess?

This is how the forecast looks like, for the following three scenarios.

We will cross 1 lakh Covid deaths in like two weeks and then will touch 2 lakh sometime in November (2 lakh total deaths for India would be equivalent to 144 deaths per million; both US and Brazil are already over 550 per million dead).

There is another way to forecast future deaths, but let me take a quick light break first.

Alright, let’s now try a slightly more nuanced (albeit indirect) approach to project future deaths. This requires looking first at cases. Cases are important because even when you don’t die, just being infected seems to have its own issues.

From ‘brain fog’ to heart damage, COVID-19’s lingering problems alarm scientists

ScienceMag.Org

At a global level, when adjusted for population – total reported cases for India, as of now are much low. But they are growing – so would they remain low forever?

Anyway so like deaths, for cases too, if we look at the week-on-week growth, we can have some idea of how it’s probably going to grow in the next few weeks.

6.5 lakh total positive cases were detected this week, which is only 2% higher than the total cases detected the week before (6.4 lakh)

Let’s call this w-o-w growth in cases – ‘X’. X was 14% last week and 15% the week before (see the above chart). X=2% this week, possibly because of not enough increase in testing capacity?

Anyway, for my projection, I think I can assume a range of 5 to 15% for X in the coming weeks.

Let me also make sure you understand how growth works – when something grows at 10% every week, it means it will double in a little less than two months (7-8 weeks). But if it grows at 15%, it will double in just five weeks. On the slower end, if something grows at 5%, it would take almost 4 months for it to double!

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

8,147 Covid deaths were recorded this week, which is basically 1.3% of half of total cases from this week + half of total cases from last week.

Let’s call this %age Y; Y= 1.3%.

For the future, let’s assume a range of 1% to 1.3%?

So we can forecast now – I am going with the following 3 scenarios:

  • X=10%, Y=1.2% (baseline)
  • X=5%, Y=1.1% (optimistic: slower growth in cases + lesser %ge of deaths)
  • X=15%, Y=1.3% (worse: expecting faster growth in cases)

With the above assumptions, below chart shows the future cumulative death count.

The indirect method more or less gives a similar estimate as the direct death projection.

India will cross 1 lakh total deaths in two weeks and by Nov end, the figure is likely to cross 2 lakh (i.e. 1 lakh more deaths will happen just in Oct-Nov).

Now, 1 lakh total deaths for India is basically equivalent to 72 deaths per million of the total population (currently we are at 62 per million Covid deaths).

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!

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 no. of deaths than that. Let’s look at some of our cities.

Y axis represents weeks; 1= the week when the city first reached ~10 deaths per million

Pune for example, crossed 700 deaths per million last week itself.

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 up to 5 lakh people (or 362 deaths per million)!

That’s it for this post. I’ll get back with updated projections next Sunday (27 Sep). Stay safe.

Categories
Gyaan VATSANALYSIS

If everyone had friends from minority groups, would there be less bigotry overall?

In one of my Instagram stories, I wrote about the need for more Hindus to have at least one good Muslim friend. Likewise, upper castes should have one good lower-caste friend. This I proposed would make the Bhakts more empathetic (Bhakts I believe are predominantly upper caste Hindu men).

Note: You can also listen to this blog in my podcast (to subscribe to my podcast channel, search for VATSAnalysis on your favourite podcast platform)

To this suggestion, someone pointed out that this may not help at all.

“Having a friend really makes little to no difference to Bhakts / card carrying RSS member for that matter. The hypocrisy is too deep”, P commented and shared the below cartoon.

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A cartoon by @ellisjrosen. #NewYorkerCartoons

A post shared by The New Yorker Cartoons (@newyorkercartoons) on

“All these people have friends. But they consider them friends only until outside their doorstep”, P added. “They never give up on rituals and cultural processes. They stay with the family circles and with those, they have constructed beliefs that make a villain out of minorities.”

Since this ‘friendship ain’t gonna do nothing’ theory was primarily coming from the P’s personal experiences, I wanted to find out if there were studies available, where sociologists / social scientists had tried to test this hypothesis.

Life’s real answers are mostly neither here, nor there – they are somewhere in between! 🙂

Jamil Zaki is the director of The Stanford Social Neuroscience Lab. Following are some insights he shares in his book:

  • In all-white housing projects in US, 75% of residents said they’d dislike living alongside blacks; but in mixed projects, only 25% disliked having black neighbors.
  • In all-white platoons in US, 62% of soldiers opposed integrating the armed forces; but among whites who had been in a mixed platoon, only 7% opposed such integration.

Do you now think there is a possibility of an evidence based support for what I was instinctively thinking? In fact, there’s a name for it – the ‘Contact Hypothesis’.

Bigotry often boils down to a lack of acquaintance.

Gordon Allport, The Nature of Prejudice

The antidote to bigotry that the Harvard psychologist Gordon Allport proposed in his 1954 book was simple – Bring people together – which in psychology, came to be known as the ‘Contact Hypothesis‘.

But Contact doesn’t work all the time. In fact, in some cases, it can actually make things worse.

The Boston commuter train experiment

When each morning at the same time, some Latino passengers were ‘planted’ on a Boston commuter train – and this was done for ten days – it was observed that the white commuters who saw Latinos grew less tolerant of immigration than they had been before.

“Goodwill contact without concrete goals accomplishes nothing”, Allport proposed, followed by recommendations to make such Contact initiatives truly effective (things like giving the groups mutual goals, making the interactions personal etc.)

Allport proposed that for most favorable results of such Contact initiatives, groups should be given equal status (even if one group has more power in real life). But now we know it takes more than that (in part thanks to the Sender-Responder experiment).

The Sender-Responder experiment

Emile Bruneau – Director of the Peace and Conflict Neuroscience Lab at University of Pennsylvania – started with the premise that if one group is silenced for most part in real life, perhaps they should be given greater status when the groups come together.

To test this idea, he paired Mexican immigrants and white U.S. citizens who had never met. In each pair,

  • one person was assigned the role of “sender” – who would write a short essay about the hardships facing their group;
  • the second person – the “responder” – would read the essay and then summarize it in their own words and pass it back.

When white Americans acted as responders (reading what Mexicans wrote and then summed it up themselves), they said they felt better about Mexican immigrants. The Mexican immigrants who acted as senders also felt the same.

But when Mexican immigrants acted as responders (where they had to read about hardships of white Americans), they felt worse about the white Americans.

Brunue tried similar experiments in different contexts and settings and the results were the same. The minority group is already well aware of the majority narrative / perspective. In a sit-down where say both men and women are supposed to share their perspectives, men get to gain real insights; women – not so much.

Women are so keenly aware of the male experience because our entire existence had to be kind of through that lens. Whereas men have never had to understand the female experience in order to exist in the world.

Sarah Silverman (from The War for Kindness)

Contact Hypothesis works, but it works best when it reverses the existing power structure, rather than ignoring it in the name of ‘equality’.

Before I end, let me share another story / experiment from the book – this one is on psychopaths. Psychopaths, by definition, have impaired empathy – they simply don’t care about other people’s emotion. So the question is – IS IT POSSIBLE TO ALTER THE EMPATHY LEVEL OF PSYCHOPATHS TOO?

The short answer is yes! I know I know…

Christian Keysers and his colleagues traveled to prisons around the Netherlands and scanned the brains of both psychopathic and non-psychopathic criminals as they were shown images of people in pain.

As expected, psychopaths didn’t show a mirroring response (activation of mirror neurons takes place in our brain when we feel someone else’s feelings / pains / movement). The non-psychopathic criminals showed such mirroring response.

This may suggest that psychopaths’ lack of empathy is “hardwired” into their brains. But then Keysers’s team ran a second version of the study – the result was no more the same!

The psychopaths were now asked to focus on victims’ pain and to do their best to imagine how it felt. And when the psychopaths did this, their brains mirrored suffering in almost exactly the same way as non-psychopaths!

Bottom-line – with the right nudge, anyone can be triggered to show empathy.

The book of course talks a lot about short-term empathy and long-term empathy and what works when and the need for more research in select areas etc. There is no way I can sum all that up in a blog (nor should I). If you like the premise and whatever little that I have shared, it’s definitely a meaningful read.

As I end, let me leave you with a Ted talk by Jamil Zaki where he touches upon few more aspects of empathy (like his Roddenbery hypothesis). That will be all for this blog – hope your learnt something useful. If you like what I write, do subscribe to my Sunday newsletter.

Categories
Newsletter

Vatsap? 2020 Sep 13 Newsletter

This Sunday, I continue my Myanmar Vlog, share the psychology of why you may have felt odd about Trump being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, question you on whether you should feel proud of Kalpana Chawla, share something on cancer research + my weekly Covid updates and end with a Shitoon.


The Myanmar saga continues

I hope you enjoyed part 1 that I shared last week. Here is the second part of my four part BTS series. You will see me travel to an island in a crazy ferry ride and chase some stories. Feb was fun!

My Myanmar story is all fun and happy but The New York Times had something serious that it brought out this week – on the killings of the Rohingya Muslims in the country. It’s something really worth reading.

The PM equivalent of Myanmar (State Councellor) is an old lady named Aung San Suu Kyi who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 (when she was under house arrest by the country’s military). This week, when I heard about Trump’s nomination for the coveted prize, I really wanted to understand what was happening.

I read up a little on the Nobel Peace Prize and have some interesting insights to share.

Give it a read?

Also, tell me, did you feel proud as an Indian when Kailash Satyarthi won the Prize in 2014? If yes, why? After all, what was your contribution towards his achievement?

I have thought about this “feeling proud” thing for quite some time. I wondered again when I read the news below, this week.

The phenomenon that describes this is called BIRGing and if you have never heard of it before, do check out my short blog on the topic. And then tell me, is it okay for me to feel proud of IIT Madras just because I graduated from it?

I had made a bunch of videos for IITM last year as part of its 60 years celebration (60 videos X 60 second).

One such 60 seconder was published this week – it is about cancer research and I think what is happening in IIT Madras in this area is fascinating (whether or not I feel proud of it).

Now that we are talking about cancer, let’s also quickly touch upon Covid. My weekly updates and projections are out as usual.

India is at 77k+ reported Covid deaths (56 per million) and would cross 1 lakh by month end / Oct first week. Pune is leading the growth where 700+ per million have already died.

Do check out my full analysis where I also explain till when cases / deaths could keep rising.

Enough of grimness; let’s have some laughs at the expense of Covid now, shall we?

Before I end, I drew something this week, so check that out.

View this post on Instagram

For all the crazy ones out there. @amritvatsa

A post shared by Shitoon (@vatsap_shitoon) on

This is all that I have to share. If you are in the mood for Netflix reccos – do watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix (thankfully it’s not a series).

Have a great day and a great week, stay safe, spend less time on Social Media, do something good for the world and I will see you again, in a week’s time!

-Amrit

Categories
Covid-times

India Covid deaths weekly projection – 13 Sep update

INDIA IS AT 77K+ REPORTED DEATHS (56 PER MILLION) AS OF NOW AND WILL CROSS 1 LAKH TOTAL DEATHS BY SEP END / OCT FIRST WEEK. PUNE IS LEADING THE GROWTH WITH 700+ PER MILLION DEAD ALREADY.


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 (12 Sep) stands at 77k+ (actual figure could be as high as twice this value, for various reasons documented here).

For the first time, daily reported deaths every single day in a week remained over 1,000. That’s almost six full capacity A320s crashing and killing everyone on board everyday.

One could try forecasting the future deaths by simply using the existing week-on-week growth in ‘total deaths in a week’.

Yes there are many ups and downs in the weekly growth of Covid deaths but if one has to extrapolate, a 5% to 15% growth range seems to be a good guess?

This is how the forecast looks like, for the three scenarios.

We will cross 1 lakh Covid deaths either by this month end or latest by first week of October.

Alright, let’s now try a slightly more nuanced (albeit indirect) approach to project cumulative deaths. This requires looking first at cases. Cases are important because even when you don’t die, just being infected could be troublesome.

From ‘brain fog’ to heart damage, COVID-19’s lingering problems alarm scientists

ScienceMag.Org

Let’s look at the week-on-week growth rate of ‘total cases in a week’.

6.4 lakh total positive cases were detected this week, which is 14% higher than the total cases detected the week before (5.6 lakh)

To make sure you understand how growth works, when something grows at 10% every week, that means it will double in a little less than two months (7-8 weeks). If it grows at 15%, it will double in just five weeks and if it grows as slow as 5%, it would take almost 4 months for it to double.

For my projection, I will assume a range of 5 to 15% (X) for week-on-week growth of cases. 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.

7,891 Covid deaths were recorded this week that is basically 1.3% of half of total cases from this week + half of total cases from last week.

In other words, Y for this week is 1.3%. For the future, let’s assume a range from 1% to 1.3%? That’s my assumption #2.

Let’s forecast now…

Let me consider 3 scenarios:

  • X=10%, Y=1.2% (baseline)
  • X=5%, Y=1.1% (optimistic: slower growth in cases + lesser %ge of deaths)
  • X=15%, Y=1.3% (worse: expecting faster growth in cases)

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

The indirect method more or less gives a similar estimate as the direct death projection.

India will cross 1 lakh total deaths by early October.

Now, 1 lakh total deaths for India is basically equivalent to 72 deaths per million of the total population (currently we are just over 56 per million Covid deaths).

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 no. of deaths than that. Let’s look at some of our cities.

Y axis represents weeks; 1= the week when the city first reached ~10 deaths per million

Pune has already crossed 700 deaths per million and is still quite steep in terms of growth.

Delhi has somehow managed to grow much slower and doesn’t look like it will cross even 200 deaths per million. Mumbai may not be growing as fast as Pune, but it is almost at 400 per million deaths and far from peaking. So that’s the overall range we are looking at (to remind you again, at a country level we are at < 60 per million dead so far).

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 up to 5 lakh people (or 362 deaths per million)!

That’s it for this post. I’ll get back with updated projections next Sunday (20 Sep). Stay safe.