Barring the emergence of a second wave, India seems to have the Covid situation largely under control. This is giving the government more headroom to focus on reviving the pandemic-hit economy and putting it back on a high growth trajectory.
The complete lockdown of India from March 25 for close to three months by the Narendra Modi government and the
steady, calibrated reopening of the economy and other aspects of daily life is paying rich dividends after almost eight months. The lockdown was the world's most stringent and effectively lead to one-sixth of humanity being confined to their respective homes. It brought the Indian economy to a grinding halt, led to a reverse migration of tens of millions of daily labourers back from the big cities where they worked to the villages they hailed from and, as cases spiked in July, August and September, looked like having failed in its objective of containing the spread of the pandemic.
But now, barring the outbreak of a second wave, the peak seems to have passed. Fresh cases are falling every day, the recovery rate is among the highest in the world and the economy is roaring back to life.
India's recovery rate of 93.5 per cent as on November 18 is among the highest in the world. On other statistical parameters, too, India compares favourably. According to www.covid19india.org, which tracks the outbreak in the country, the number of confirmed Covid cases climbed by 38,478 to 8,912,704 on November 18, 8,333,013 people recovered, up 44,671. That means recoveries are now outnumbering fresh cases, pointing to a downward trend in active cases, which is at 446,657 as on date. That comes to only 5.01 per cent of total cases. A total of 131,031 people has succumbed to the pandemic in India, giving a fatality rate of 1.47 per cent. Compare this with the world at large. The website www.statista.com says: “As of November 16, 2020, there were almost 55 million global cases of COVID-19. Over 38 million people had recovered from the disease, while there had been over 1.3 million deaths. The United States, Brazil, and Mexico have been among the countries hardest hit by the pandemic.”
So, the global recovery rate is a mere 69.09 per cent, while the fatality rate is 2.36 per cent. India is doing far better than the rest of the world. The only reason for this is strict and total three-months-long lockdown, which gave the government and the Indian health sector crucial headroom to prepare for the pandemic that has brought even developed countries in the West almost to their knees.
Policy makers and health workers are keeping their fingers crossed and praying that the anticipated second wave of virus attacks does not happen, or even if it does, is less severe than the first wave. If India's recovery rate continues to outstrip the outbreak of fresh cases at the same rate as the current figures indicate and the coronavirus vaccines being developed by Pfizer, Moderna and two Indian vaccine makers become available within the next three-to-six months, then India should be fine, many analysts, who had earlier predicted doom, are now saying.
indicate and the coronavirus vaccines being developed by Pfizer, Moderna and two Indian vaccine makers become available within the next three-to-six months, then India should be fine, many analysts, who had earlier predicted doom, are now saying.
India's Ministry of Health said enhanced countrywide medical infrastructure, implementation of the Centre's Standard Treatment Protocol by the states and Union Territories and total dedication and commitment of doctors, paramedics and frontline workers have led to a persistent increase in the number of total recoveries in the country. Critics still point to the high number of total cases in the country and point out that India is now second only to the US on this count. They overlook one critical factor - India's population.
The number of cases in India roughly corresponds to India's share of the global population. Relative to population, India's record at containing and treating the Covid-19 outbreak is far better than even advanced countries such as France, the UK, Russia, Italy and other. It also fares much better than BRICS peer Brazil, which ranks third among countries with Covid cases.
Meanwhile, in a heartening development, India has declared that it will use its vaccine production capacity to help the entire world fight the pandemic.
“Several countries have been approaching us for receiving vaccine supply. I reiterate our Prime Minister's commitment that India's vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all humanity in fighting this crisis... India will also help interested countries in enhancing their cold chain and storage capacities for the delivery of vaccines,” said Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla at a briefing of the diplomatic corps and representatives of international organisations. This contrasts with the attitude of several developed nations that have decided to buy up stocks of the vaccine whenever it is available to treat only their own populations and is very much in line with Modi's diplomatic outreach to the world's poorer nations.
So, now, the government can focus more on putting the economy back on the high growth trajectory. There's good news here as well. Global investment bank Goldman Sachs has estimated that India will grow at a steroid-charged 13 per cent next year. A large part of this will be due to the very competent and proactive management of the Covid-19 outbreak by the government.