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Data rubbishes false narrative about the role of Kumbh Mela and Bengal election rallies in COVID spike

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The maximum number of COVID cases reported per day are expected to reach at about the peak now anytime soon between first and second week of May, followed by a peak of total active cases in about two weeks later. All those who think that Kumbh in Uttarakhand and  Election Rallies in West Bengal had anything to do with spread of the second wave of COVID, should pay attention to the data and facts.

One can see the plots of predicted and real-time data at twitter page of Professor Manindra Agrawal from IIT Kanpur (https://twitter.com/agrawalmanindra), which were originally generated by him using mathematical modeling. These predictions do not have Kumbh Mela or Election Rallies as variables in the mathematical model, yet the real-time data is following perfectly or very closely the predictions. The distribution of cases (i.e., the shape of bell curve) for West Bengal, where election rallies held, and Uttarakhand, where Kumbh held, is not different than the distribution of any other state like Maharashtra, Gujrat, or MP. Most obviously, this similarity in the COVID cases between all states and Uttarakhand or West Bengal could be due to one common reason – the noncompliance of COVID protocols in general in every state, city, town, village, and household. The markets and other public places in every city of the country had large Kumbh-like gathering every day until April. Therefore, Kumbh or West Bengal rallies did not seem to make much difference in the overall distributions of state-wise cases. 

The most important question is then what exactly happened, where we went wrong. Well, my opinion is that the nation fell victim of the false and irresponsible narratives that were made after the first wave. These false narratives were: “COVID does not affect much Indian population”,  “our vaccines are not good or safe”,   “ our vaccines make people sick,”  etc. There were certain segments of our own society that made these narratives for their own political reasons,  but such narratives confused the nation badly, leading it to not follow the COVID protocol. As a result, when the second wave hit, the innocent people fell victim of these narratives as we did not have time to change these narratives and mend our social behavior.

For those who argue why government did not create enough infrastructure to deal with the problem of this magnitude, the matter of fact is that whatever health infrastructure that we see today while dealing with second wave – medical equipment, test kits, PPE kits, medicines, and vaccines — were created in past one year, thanks to the massive efforts of startups, private and public sectors, and the leadership of one man – PM Narendra Modi. This health infrastructure didn’t exist earlier. If we did not have what we have today, the situation would have been worst. Just think about it!

If someone would like to read and understand the complex mathematics behind the modelling and prediction referred in this report,  please feel free to read a research paper by Professor Manindra Agrawal at the link https://arxiv.org/abs/2101.09158 from a pre-print Journal of Cornell University.

~Dr. Singh

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