While European countries like Germany were preparing for another Lockdown, the government was enforcing stricter measures reducing the social life of the people to the minimum to contain the second wave of the virus, my visit to India painted a contradictory picture. The streets were just as lively as I had known, shopping centers open and bustling with customers, people greeting each other with handshakes and hugs.This seemed unusual because on 24. March 2020 the Government of India announced the first Lockdown in 82 districts in 22 states in India. Since then, India has gone through several intermittent lockdowns. Under the regulations of the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India schools, universities, as well as public facilities like shopping centers, movie theatres and fitness studios, were shut down. Certain roads in the cities‘ hotspot areas were closed and police kept an active watch to ensure that the 14-hour curfew from 7 am to 9 pm was observed. Transport services including all air, rail, and road travel except in emergency cases and for transportation on essential good were prohibited. Moreover, everything closing down, migrant workers who lost their jobs had to embark on a journey of hundreds of kilometers on foot to their villages. In spite of this, COVID-19 cases kept rising and the hospitals’ capacities were exhausted. Until now 155k people died of COVID-19 in India.
The government started easing the lockdown and resuming the economic activities since June 2020. In the primary phase public facilities like malls, restaurant and places of worshipped reopened outside the containment zone (corona Hotspots). Surprisingly, one can observe a steep drop in daily cases as well as daily deaths per day after September 2020 which has kept dropping till February 2021. The lockdown has been in lifted in phases and social life has virtually returned to normal.
This drop in cases despite the relaxations in the restrictive measure has confused virologists, epidemiologists as well the citizens on what the possible cause could be? On the one hand a large number of people are getting tested but on the other hand people have resorted to less reliable tests (Schnelltest). This leads to a false amount of total active cases. Moreover, the low death toll could be contributed to the fact that the majority (93%) of the population is less than 65 years old, in which the progressions of the disease is not as serious. Furthermore, some officials speculate that India has already achieved herd immunity. Herd immunity would be achieved if a sufficient percentage of India’s population as a whole has become immune through vaccination or due to previously being infected by the virus. According to the recently conducted serological survey by ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) a significant percentage of people have developed antibodies for COVID-19, but this percentage lies a lot lower than the 60-80% which is needed to achieve herd immunity. In cities like Delhi small pockets may exist where enough immune people but India as a whole including all the urban and rural areas has a long way ahead.