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How many COVID-19 deaths were prevented by lockdown?

Date: 06 June 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous


NITI Aayog has provided the government’s view of the success of the nationwide lockdown imposed on March 25. In that context, it presented numbers for Covid-19 cases and deaths averted by the lockdown. These numbers came from several modelling groups.



  • One estimate came from the Boston Consulting Group, who found that 36-70 lakh cases and 1.2-2.1 lakh deaths had been averted until May 15.

  • An estimate from the Public Health Foundation of India only provided a number for deaths averted, which was 78,000.

  • A third estimate came from economists who found that 23 lakh cases and 68,000 deaths had been averted.

  • A fourth estimate was from a group of retired scientists from NIMS whose calculations suggested that 15.9 lakh cases and 51,000 deaths have been averted.

  • The fifth estimate came from a collaboration between the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation and the Indian Statistical Institute, which found that 14-29 lakh cases and 37,000-78,000 deaths had been averted.

  • Most data collected by the government, such as the numbers of patients reporting with influenza-like symptoms across the first few months of the year, is simply unavailable to those outside it.

  • The ISRC has developed a detailed India-specific epidemiological model, called INDSCI-SIM. This model is well suited to address questions such as those of deaths or cases averted.

  • The model contains up-to-date clinical information specific to Covid-19, as well as demographic details, including age-specific probabilities of mortality and the distribution of ages within the population in each state.

  • The model also describes the effects of interventions such as the lockdown and associated measures. These measures include the increased ability to test those with symptoms and their contacts in a lockdown situation. 

  • The model predicts a range of 8,000-32,000 for the number of deaths averted by May 15. Compared to the government’s numbers, this is a more conservative but likely more robust estimate, since it is obtained from what is the most detailed epidemiological model available currently for India.

  • There is certainly evidence that the lockdown can be said to have worked, at least in the limited sense of averting Covid-19 deaths that would have otherwise happened if the epidemic spread had not been restricted.

  • However, numbers for averted deaths are smaller than those quoted by the government. Thus, the gains from the lockdown, unless sustained, could be cancelled by losses elsewhere. 

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