March 4, 2024

Health workers with personal protective equipment care for Covid-19 patients in a banquet room that was temporarily converted into a Covid care center in New Delhi on May 7, 2021.

Prakash Singh | AFP | Getty Images

India’s total Covid-19 cases surpassed 24 million as the country battled a devastating second wave of infections that overwhelmed its healthcare system.

Government data released on Friday showed that 343,144 new cases were reported within 24 hours, killing at least 4,000 people. It was the third day in a row that the official death toll was 4,000 or more.

Even so, daily cases have remained below the record high of 414,188 reported on May 7, but the pressure in hospitals has not yet eased. Reports also suggest the virus is making the rounds in rural India, where experts have said the health system was not designed to handle a surge in cases.

A professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, said Friday that daily cases in India may have peaked.

“According to our model, the number of new cases occurring every day has peaked and we are on our way down,” Manindra Agrawal, professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, told CNBC’s Street Signs Asia. He added that India’s number of active cases is also “very close to its peak” and that this could happen in the next few days, after which the situation is likely to improve.

Together with two scientists, Agrawal wrote a mathematical model for pandemics called SUTRA (Susceptible, Undetected, Tested (Positive) and Removed Approach) to predict the spread of the coronavirus.

Previously, the model predicted that India’s second wave would peak in the third week of April and that daily cases would likely stay at 100,000. April was India’s worst month yet, with nearly 7 million officially reported cases while more than 48,000 people died. Experts have said the real number is likely much higher.

The scientists behind SUTRA then said the model’s shortcomings were due to the changed nature of the Covid-19 virus.

Agrawal told CNBC that the SUTRA model had predicted that the second wave would be of similar intensity to the first and would peak in late April.

“This is the feedback we’ve given the government,” he said, adding, “We’ve got the location or timing of the summit more or less right, but we haven’t adjusted the intensity right.”

“Nobody could really measure the intensity of the wave and that surprised us all,” added Agrawal.

Indian officials are already observing a possible third wave as the government seeks to ramp up its massive vaccination program by increasing vaccine production.

Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, K. VijayRaghavan, said earlier this month a third wave was “inevitable given the higher number of viruses circulating”.