India Covid deaths weekly projection – 13 Sep 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 (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.

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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.

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