May 22, 2020
India is four times more populous than the US, but has just 2% the number of cases and only 1.5% of the number of Covid-19 deaths. How has the country, whose per capita income is just tenth of the US, avoided being flattened by the pandemic?
There are four possible explanations:
- The epidemic may have struck later than in other countries. Since epidemics have exponential growth at the start, a small delay can have massive effects on the number of cases.
- India’s 21-day lockdown may have successfully suppressed the epidemic. Physical distancing is one of the best ways to slow the epidemic and, if anything, many have criticized the lockdown for being too draconian in that regard.
- India has not been able to test enough to count all cases and deaths. Without sufficient testing, many deaths may not be labeled with Covid-19 for official statistics, leading to an underestimation of the severity of the crisis.
- India may have protective characteristics against Covid-19. Researchers have proposed that the low share of elderly in the population, the high temperatures and humidity in India, widespread BCG vaccination for tuberculosis, or resistance to malaria have helped India escape the brunt of the pandemic.
The article concludes saying, “Ultimately, India’s relatively light exposure to Covid-19 remains a puzzle. It may have certain characteristics that protect it from the deadliest impact, but they do not suggest that it will escape the pandemic unscathed. Great care and vigilance are still necessary.”