For weeks, as outbreaks of the coronavirus spread to other parts of Asia, India remained relatively unaffected. As of March 13, the state had reported its first death – and until then, only 73 cases had been recorded.
When the numbers of cases were still relatively low, the government took action. On March 11, India suspended all tourist visas, and on March 22, all international flights were suspended.
When India closed on March 25, the country had about 519 cases and 10 deaths.
But when it was partially lifted on May 30, India had more than 180,000 cases – and it was rising.
Since closings have continued nationwide, some countries have imposed restrictions on their own – or even resumed closings. However, within four months, the country moved from more than 500 cases to over a million cases.
Sanjay Rai, president of the Indian Public Health Association, says the closure has helped delay the outbreak, which has helped buy time for authorities to manufacture more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits.
But these early steps did not allow India to avoid an outbreak completely.
With the outbreak of India, it did not spread evenly across the country.
About 56% of coronavirus infections in India are concentrated in only three of the country’s 36 states or territories – Maharashtra, Delhi, and Tamil Nadu, and it is home to some of India’s most populous cities. Maharashtra – where Mumbai is – has 28% of the country’s cases. But while these three states have 56% of the country’s cases, they are home to only 17% of the country’s population.
According to Rajesh Buchan, Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare official, over 50% of all active cases in the country are in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, where one of the largest cities is in India.
In contrast, some parts of the country have barely reported the virus. The Lakshadweep Union – a tropical archipelago off the Kerala coast – has not reported any cases. Five other states have cases but no coronavirus deaths.
As a medical expert in India said, who declined to be identified because he did not have permission to speak to the press, he said: “India is not a single country. It is 30 countries, in terms of population.”
Despite the huge number of cases in India, officials indicated that the death toll in the country was still relatively low.
India has seen about 19 deaths per million people – less than in the United States, with 416 deaths per million, or the UK, with 687 deaths per million.
China has about three deaths per million.
Experts pointed to the relatively young population of India. Studies show that older adults are more likely to die from corona virus.
In India, approximately 44% of the population is under the age of 24, while only 15% is over 55. As Rajesh Bhushan, an official at the Ministry of Health, indicated earlier this month, this means that about 75% of the population of India is considered low The risks are dying from the coronavirus. According to him, people aged 60 years and over make up 10% of the population of India, but 53% of coronavirus deaths.
By contrast, the UK – which has one of the world’s worst mortality rates per person – has a larger population. There, 29% of the population is under the age of 24, and 31% are over 55.
About 93% of people in the UK who died of coronavirus in March and April were 60 or older.
Indian officials are keen to put the country’s coronavirus cases in context.
India has the third largest outbreak in the world – but it also has the second largest population in any country.
So, while India accounts for 17% of the world’s population, it has only 7% of the world’s coronavirus cases. By contrast, the United States has only 4% of the world’s population and 26% of the world’s coronavirus cases.
The bad news, however, is that the outbreak of India is not over.
According to the unnamed medical expert, India has not yet reached its climax.
“We are at the top, but not at the peak,” he said. “We certainly are not at the bottom of the curve.”
“Now, it depends heavily on society. No agency can help much in spreading disease now.”