A top scientist heading the country’s Covid-19 Supermodel Committee on Monday said that it had warned the central government in early April that coronavirus cases in India would surge between May 15 to 22, NDTV reported.

In an interview to the news channel, M Vidyasagar, the committee head, said that on April 2 the body had told the Centre that new cases in India will reach a peak of 1.2 lakh cases during the period. Vidyasagar, also a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in Hyderabad, admitted that the predicted peak was “off by quite a bit”. He, however, added that timing of the peak was more crucial.

In a tweet on April 30, Vidyasagar said that the central government had contacted the committee for inputs “only about three or four times from July last year” and that the last such occasion was on April 2.

The National Covid-19 Supermodel Committee was formed by the central government’s Department of Science and Technology last year to make projections about the spatial and temporal spread of the virus.

In the interview, Vidyasagar also referred to a study conducted by IIT Kanpur professor Manindra Agarwal, who is also part of the Covid-19 Supermodel Committee. In a tweet on April 25, Agarwal said the study showed that active cases in India would peak between May 14 to 18 and new infections between May 4 to 8. The number of active cases could reach up to 48 lakh, while daily new cases could peak to 4.4 lakh, Agarwal predicted.

On being asked if the Centre was aware of a potential jump in cases and whether adequate measures were taken, Vidyasagar said that the committee in April predicted the peak to arrive in mid-May. The scientist added that some of the government plans could have taken three to four months to materialise, to which, the committee said that there wasn’t “that kind of time”, NDTV reported.

In a separate interview to The Print last week, Vidyasagar had said that while the government was not in denial of the second wave of the pandemic, it was “caught by surprise by the ferocity”.

Flaws in the supermodel

The supermodel committee, however, has faced criticism by health experts for the absence of epidemiologists or virologists in the group. The observations made last year by the committee also came under question since it had predicted that the pandemic would draw to a close by February this year.

Mukund Thattai of the National Centre for Biological Sciences pointed out that the committee had predicted there would be no second wave of the pandemic and that it has altered its projections time and again.

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