Researchers say India's Covid-19 deaths could double

South Asian nation passes the grim milestone of 20 million cases since the pandemic began

India, facing the world’s worst Covid crisis, may encounter a bleaker scenario in the coming weeks, with some research models projecting the death toll could more than double.

The country has recorded about 20 million infections, double the figure reported only three weeks ago.

A team at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore used mathematical modelling to predict about 404,000 deaths will occur by June 11 if the trend continues.

Another model, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, forecast 1,018,879 deaths by the end of July.

The forecasts reflect the urgent need for India to step up public health measures such as testing and social distancing.

The Indian Institute of Science estimated the number of deaths could be lowered to 300,000 with a 15-day lockdown, and to 285,000 with a 30-day confinement. The IMHE estimated a death toll of about 940,000 by the end of July, with universal mask-wearing.

The Modi government resisted calls for strict physical distancing and mask-wearing, and allowed thousands to gather for public holidays and election rallies.

Public-safety measures in the country hit capacity and hospitals face severe shortages of oxygen.

This week, a court in Uttar Pradesh state ruled that deaths of Covid-19 patients caused by the shortage of oxygen were a “criminal act and not less than genocide”.

A week earlier, another court held the election commission responsible for spreading the virus and failing to follow safety protocols.

Even if the worst estimates are avoided, India could suffer the world’s largest Covid-19 death toll. The US has reported the most fatalities, about 592,000.