Coronavirus | Paul says forecast showing cases going to zero was misinterpreted


That India would see a decline in new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases by May 16 was a “misinterpretation,” V.K. Paul, who leads the government’s COVID-19 committee on managing medical emergency, said at a media briefing on Friday.

“No one has ever said that the number of cases would go down to zero at a particular date, there is a misunderstanding, which needs to be corrected. For the misunderstanding, I feel sorry and apologise,” he said in a response to a question that sought an explanation.

As The Hindu has previously reported, on April 24, Dr. Paul, NITI Aayog member and internationally acclaimed paediatrician, had made a detailed presentation at the daily briefing of the Health Ministry detailing the lockdown’s impact in curtailing the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

This is the first time Dr. Paul has acknowledged the issue at a public forum. His presentation suggested that the first lockdown had prevented India from seeing a 1,00,000 cases in April. It had also slowed the rate of transmission and increased the doubling time, the period it took for cases to double, to about 10 days. However, included in this was a PowerPoint slide that projected the benefits from “extending the lockdown” beyond April 15. This had a curve showing the number of active cases plummeting to zero by May 16.

While it’s true Dr. Paul didn’t actually say the cases would go down to zero, a video of the day’s presentation available on YouTube shows him using that slide to demonstrate the lockdown’s impact in slowing down the increase in cases. 

From May 3, India would hit its peak in adding daily cases at a little above 1,500 and this would drop to 1,000 by May 12, and down to zero by May 16, this curve showed. The Hindu had reported on April 25 that members of his own committee didn’t agree with that assessment. While the presentation was made available to the media and heavily criticised on social media, electronic copies of that slide no longer appeared to show the questionable curve in new cases declining to zero. 

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