During the Q4 of 2020, it appeared that India turned the corner and saw a large decline in the number of new covid infections. The reason for the decline is not apparent. Some believe that it’s challenging to count covid diseases in areas outside the large cities. Some believe that mask mandates have been useful. India has recently started to vaccinate, but it’s unclear how effective the vaccines are working.
COVID Infections Started to Decline
Cases of new covid infections climbed steadily from April through September, reaching a peak of nearly 100,000 daily cases on September 16. India is one of the densest populations in the world, with around 1,200 people per square mile. Shortly after hitting a peak, India’s daily infection count started to decline from mid-September through January, with average weekly cases dropping off by roughly a third each month. The nation in February is now reporting fewer than 13,000 daily infections, on average. The health ministry is taking credit for this decline, saying that a combination of factors, including robust testing and contact tracing, has helped deter further infection.
India’s health ministry has attributed this breakneck success to a few factors, including robust testing and contact tracing effort. One of the critical decisions the Indian government made was that several large cities and states in India began requiring masks in public places in April, two months before the World Health Organization recommended face coverings. Since then, the nation’s largest city, Mumbai, has levied fines against those who violate the rule.
For the most part, Indians have been supportive of mask requirements. In an October survey from social media platform LocalCircles nearly 90% of respondents said they favored a mask mandate. Another 40% said they would support increased penalties for those who didn’t comply. This survey shows that the population likes how the government is handling this situation and wants to reduce the virus’s spread.
The city governments were not kidding around. According to reports, by October, Mumbai had collected more than $70,000 worth of fines from more than 14,000 people who failed to wear their masks in public. By early December, Delhi had also issued around 500,000 fines to those not wearing masks.
The mask mandates were likely one of the causes. India only began administering coronavirus vaccines roughly recently, so it’s too soon for vaccinations to alter transmission. Some public-health experts say India’s strict mask mandates may have helped lower cases, but masks have been required there since April.
Another reason that the number of infections per day could have dropped is that it’s challenging to determine how many infections there are in rural areas. The spread in rural areas, home to more than half of the population, is challenging to both fight and monitor. The health infrastructure in these areas is weaker, and testing isn’t readily available in many small towns and villages. It appears that official testing, now at 1 million per day, vastly undercounts actual cases. Some states rely heavily on so-called rapid antigen tests, which are not accurate. Such tests comprise about 90% of testing in the most populous and rural states, which has reported relatively few cases.
The Bottom Line
The upshot is that the city governments have made a significant investment in levying fines and demanding that citizens wear masks. The diversity of the population makes it challenging to determine the spread of the infection since much of the population lives in rural areas. Overall it appears that the Indian population is happy with the way local governments have handled the pandemic.