In January 2020, India reported its first COVID-19 case, a student attending the University of Wuhan in China. As the virus spread, Prime Minister Modi ordered a massive lockdown to prevent any further spread. “If you can’t handle these 21 days, this country and your family will go back 21 years,” said Modi in an address to the nation. The lockdown worked in reducing COVID-19’s impact on India. Over time, the country managed to successfully contain the virus while the rest of the world struggled. However, difficulties were on the horizon with an impending second wave. Nevertheless, COVID-19 vaccinations bring hope to the nation of India.
A Deadly Second Wave
In April 2021, the manageability of COVID-19 cases in India took a turn for the worse. India was hit by a second wave of the virus, far more severe than the first. Religious ceremonies and political rallies exacerbated the spread of the virus, creating the perfect breeding ground for its resurgence. In May 2021, India reported COVID-19 deaths surpassing 4,000 per day. But, official tallies are most likely inaccurate due to systematic undercounting. Excess deaths, seen by pundits as a more reliable proxy for COVID-19’s impact on India, were much higher, at more than 12,000 per day during the same period. This number of excess deaths is significant compared to around 5,000 daily excess deaths in the United States at the height of the pandemic.
Major Economic Trouble
India has the sixth-largest economy in the world. The nation has long been in a position to greatly drive global poverty reduction. Thus, heavy pandemic-related casualties in the country have had the potential to magnify the national economic crisis. In 2020, sustained lockdowns and supply chain disruptions caused a sharp GDP contraction, more severe than any declines noted in the United States. Once the second wave hit in April 2021, millions of people were pushed below the poverty line almost overnight. In total, the poverty rate in India increased more than twofold.
Vaccines Bring Hope
Like other nations, India has entered a new phase of recovery, one that promises to be more durable and long-lasting than any phases in 2020. The keys to this nationwide recovery are COVID-19 vaccines and their widespread distribution. From social media to politics, Indian nationals call on the rest of the world for help, with many individuals and organizations responding. In June 2021, the White House pledged to send stockpiled doses to India.
Meanwhile, on the ground, NGOs have taken the lead. A local Delhi organization called the Centre for Holistic Development is helping to enroll eligible citizens for official COVID-19 vaccinations from the government. These efforts include homeless people living in government-managed shelters, a frequently marginalized and excluded population.
These cumulative efforts have added up. Although less than 5% of India’s massive population is fully vaccinated as of July 8, 2021, compared to 47% in the United States and 16% in China, about 22% of Indians have received at least one dose as of July 12, 2021. There is hope that this rate will increase, further slowing the spread of infection.
Going forward, mobilization from the Indian government, in combination with NGOs and international aid, has the potential to create positive conditions on the ground. The acceleration of vaccine drives will inoculate the population faster and more expansively. If all goes to plan, cases of COVID-19 in India will become manageable again and the economy will be able to fully recover as economic activity normalizes.
– Zachary Lee