A scientific committee appointed by the Centre on Sunday said the coronavirus pandemic has peaked in India, and predicted that it will end by February next year, The Indian Express reported. The panel said the country is likely to have 10.6 million (106 lakh) active cases by then.

The expert committee stressed on the need to continue protective measures against the virus. The committee said that had India not imposed a countrywide lockdown in March, the virus could have claimed over 25 lakh lives by now.

The committee was appointed by Principal Scientific Advisor to Government of India K Vijay Raghavan to coordinate efforts made by agencies, scientists and regulatory bodies, and take swift decisions on research and development against the disease. Professor M Vidyasagar of Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad, leads the panel.

India’s tally of coronavirus infections neared the 75-lakh mark on Sunday with 61,871 new cases reported in 24 hours, taking the total to 74,94,551. The country’s toll rose by 1,033 to 1,14,031.

The number of active cases stood at 7,83,311, a decline from Saturday, while the recoveries reached 65,97,209. The recovery rate stood at 87.78% and the mortality rate was 1.52%. Even though the number of active cases remained below eight lakh for the second consecutive day, India continues to be the second-worst affected nation in the world.

India saw a surge in the months of July and August. But it is seeing a slower pace of coronavirus spread since mid-September, when the daily infections touched a record of 97,894. The country is recording an average of just over 70,000 cases daily so far this month.

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However, Niti Aayog Member Paul warned against complacency and said the possibility of a second wave of infections in winter cannot be ruled out. In an interview with news agency PTI, Paul said that although India is in a somewhat better position, the country had a long way to go as 90% of the populations is still susceptible to the virus.

“We cannot rule out a second coronavirus wave this winter in India,” Paul told PTI, adding how several European countries are seeing a resurgence of the coronavirus with the onset of winter. “Things can happen and we are still learning about the virus.”

Paul said the number of new coronavirus cases and deaths have declined in the last three weeks as the spread of the pandemic has stabilised in most of the states. “However, there are five states – Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal – and three to four Union Territories, where there is still a rising trend,” he added.

Paul, who is also the chief of an expert coordinating efforts to tackle the pandemic in the country, added that once a vaccine against the coronavirus is available, there will be enough resources to deliver as well as make it accessible to the citizens.