What are mathematical models?

In the wake of the severe second wave of COVID-19 in India, there has been widespread concern on the potential for a similarly severe third wave, and even for successive waves of infection.
While it is not possible to predict these outcomes with any detail, mathematical modelling can be a helpful tool for exploring potential scenarios.
A recent modelling analysis, published by ICMR, showed that if a third wave should occur, it is unlikely to be as severe as the second, given the extent of spread that has already occurred (for the paper, see reference below). This study also examined some potential mechanisms through which a third wave could occur:

  • Immunity to infection may be short-lived, allowing reinfection after a matter of months
  • A new variant may emerge, that is more transmissible than existing strains
  • A new variant may emerge, that can escape immunity to previous strains
  • In places where lockdowns have been successful at controlling transmission, the release of those lockdowns could afford new opportunities for transmission.

This webtool allows the user to explore different scenarios for each of these mechanisms.

Sample Simulation Image

national level

Fig: National level (vaccine and without vaccine)

(Static image only: please click on 'Simulator' in the box below to interact with the webtool, and enter data input)


How can this tool be used?

The ICMR study presented only a few illustrative scenarios, for each of the mechanisms described above. However, for anyone using the results of this modelling, it is important to be able to explore other possible scenarios as well. This webtool captures each of the mechanisms listed above, and allows the user to generate scenarios with any combination of these mechanisms. For example, you might explore the potential for third-wave variants to have higher or lower transmissibility, coupled with different degrees of immune escape.
For simplicity and usability, this tool is necessarily a simplified version of the published model. For any more sophisticated scenarios, you are encouraged to get in touch with the authors of the original ICMR study.

Reference Paper Simulator Download Model Source Code

Limitations of mathematical model

All mathematical models are subject to limitations. Models do not predict future outcomes, and always rely on data. Nonetheless, models can also be helpful tools for guiding our thinking and preparedness for any future potential wave. Based on the same mathematical model as used in the ICMR study (see reference above), this webtool allows users with minimal experience to interact with this framework.

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