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Hyderabad: The ongoing surge of Covid-19 infections — widely believed to be driven by the BA4 and BA5 variants of Omicron — in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Telangana, could peak sometime in July, a preliminary assessment by the SUTRA mathematical model for forecasting pandemics has revealed.

For the past one week, the South Indian States of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Telangana, apart from Maharashtra and Delhi, have witnessed a significant surge in Covid infections.

While the average daily caseload in Maharashtra and Kerala are above 2,000, other South Indian States are reporting anywhere between 150 and 500 positive cases every day.

“Cases are rising again, particularly in Maharashtra and Kerala. As per a preliminary assessment, both should peak in July. The current phase in both places has not yet stabilised and so a more accurate picture will emerge only after a few days,” IIT-Kanpur professor Dr Manindra Agrawal said.

The SUTRA forecast, developed by mathematicians from IIT-Kanpur and Hyderabad, had accurately forecasted the peak of three previous Covid waves. This time too, the forecast is quite consistent with the projections made by the public health officials of Telangana. “We are expecting the cases to rise consistently till another six weeks, which means somewhere in July. We could perhaps witness the cases gradually dropping after that,” Director of Public Health Dr G Srinivasa Rao had said during a recent interaction with the media.

The SUTRA researchers have also pointed out that the current Covid surge is highly unstable and that they would take at least a week or so to make an exact forecast or prediction. “We do not expect the rise in infections to be significant,” they said.

It is also becoming clear that the surge across multiple Indian States is due to the BA4 and BA5 variants. The latest genome sequencing data (till June 5) from the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics (INSACOG) has indicated that the BA5 variant is active in Telangana and Tamil Nadu, while BA4 is active in Maharashtra.

As observed in the US, South Africa and Europe, there is a possibility that the two variants would replace the BA2 variant in the weeks to come. Despite the forecast of a surge, a majority of public health specialists broadly agree that the severity and hospitalisations would not be similar to the previous Covid waves.

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Author: Howard Caldwell