India Covid deaths weekly projection – 20 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 (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


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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *