Virologist Gagandeep Kang on Wednesday said that the trend of rising Covid-19 cases may decline by the end of this month or early June, reported The Hindu.

“Best guess estimates from a number of models put this somewhere between the middle and end of the month,” she said during a webinar organised by the Indian Women Press Corps. “Some models have it [second wave] going out in early June. Based on what we are seeing now, middle to end of May would be a reasonable estimate.”

Kang also said India may witness two or more peaks of coronavirus cases, but they may not be as devastating as the second wave. Covid-19 was doing a “world through” in spaces it could not venture into last year and therefore there was a massive rise in infections among the middle class population and in the rural areas. But she said there was going to be “very little fuel” for the coronavirus to continue with this trend.

“And all the ones [infectious disease modellers] that exist will tell you that their models are as good as the data they have and the models are accurate up to two weeks,” Kang said, according to PTI. “You cannot expect a prediction for three months or six months or two years from now as yet. We do not know enough about the virus.”

The virologist said that the coronavirus would end up becoming seasonal like “a really bad flu virus” that will settle down and the public will eventually develop a certain level of immunity.

“It may be imperfect in immunity, so we may need boosters if we keep having enough virus replications to have new mutants that have immune escape, but I am pretty sure that we are not going to have this situation that we are in today too many more times,” she added. “At least, not with this virus.”

Kang, who was the first Indian woman scientist to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in April 2019, said that the Covid-19 vaccines offered a lot of protection against the disease. “If you are protected against infection, you also don’t transmit to the next person,” she said, according to The Hindu. “So the vaccines are working very well against severe disease and death.” She also added that the vaccines may not prevent an infection but will surely decrease it.

“Despite a decline in testing, we are pretty close to the limit that we could potentially reach, somewhere around four to four-and-a half lakh cases per day,” she said.

The virologist also said that an immediate countrywide lockdown would help if the country wanted fewer cases two to three weeks from now. Kang said this will ensure that there was a lower load of infections in three weeks.

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“The question is can you afford to do that,” Kang added. “If you choose to do that what will you do to show that you have learnt from last year where you had all kinds of humanitarian issues. If you can guarantee that it will not happen, that people are in safe, secure places, there is no violation of their human rights and everybody is fed and comfortable, then sure go ahead.”

The mass exodus of migrant workers from major cities was a point of concern during the countrywide lockdown in March 2020. With most modes of public transport shut down, thousands of migrant workers were left with the option of either ferrying rides on private vehicles with cramped spaces, or walking hundreds of kilometres on the way to their hometowns.

During last year’s lockdown, workers had experienced a money crunch and problems such as lack of food. Last year’s survey of over 11,000 stranded migrant workers, done by the Stranded Workers Action Network, showed that half of them had stocks of ration that would only last less than a day. Out of these, 96% workers had not received rations from the government, and 70% had not received any cooked food. As many as 89% had not been paid by their employers at all during the lockdown, the report added.

Many of them blamed the sudden announcement of the lockdown in March last year. In Delhi this year, migrant workers said that they should have been given more time to prepare before the restrictions were imposed.

A recent survey showed that 81% of migrant workers who were interviewed said that their work has stopped because of local lockdowns. The workers have reported that they have not had work for 19 days on average, it said.

India on Thursday registered 4,12,262 new coronavirus cases, taking the tally in the country to 2,10,77,410 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. This is the highest rise in daily cases and the second instance after May 1, when the count rose by more than 4 lakh. The toll climbed by 3,980 deaths to 23,01,68.