India among top 20 nations at risk of importing coronavirus: German study

Of the countries most at risk of importing coronavirus cases, India ranks 17th, researchers have found on the basis of a mathematical model for the expected global spread of the virus that originated in China’s Wuhan area in December 2019.

So far India has reported three coronavirus positive cases — all from Kerala. Among the airports in India, the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi is most at risk, followed by airports in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kochi, according to the model.

The new model for predicting global novel coronavirus cases has been developed by researchers from Humboldt University and Robert Koch Institute in Germany.

“The spread of the virus on an international scale is dominated by air travel,” said the study. “Wuhan was the relevant major domestic air transportation hub with many connecting international flights before the city was effectively quarantined on January 23, 2020, and the Wuhan airport was closed. By then the virus had already spread to other Chinese provinces as well as other countries,” it added.

The researchers said it is possible to estimate how likely it is that the virus spreads to other areas by looking at air travel passenger numbers.

“The busier a flight route, the more probable it is that an infected passenger travels this route. We also take into account connecting flights and travel routes that involve multiple destinations,” said the study.

The top 10 countries and regions at risk of importing coronavirus are: Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, USA, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Cambodia.

While Thailand’s national import risk is 2.1%, it is 0.2% for India, found the research.

The foundation of the model is the worldwide air transporation network that connects approximately 4,000 airports with more than 25,000 direct connections.

The model accounts for both, the current distribution of confirmed cases in mainland China as well as airport closures that were implemented as a mitigation strategy. This model is based on the concept of effective distance and is an extension of a model introduced in the 2013 paper “The Hidden Geometry of Complex, Network-Driven Contagion Phenomena” published in the journal ‘Science’.

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