Why does India not have a national game

Why so few corona cases are currently registered in India

New infections every day in India, which has 1.3 billion people, fell to a level of 10,000. In some cities, every second person has antibodies. But the numbers could be deceiving. Although significantly less testing was recently carried out, the positive rate remained high.

Just six months ago, India was one of the major corona crisis countries when the virus spread explosively through the poor areas of the cities and the hospitals could no longer accept many sick people. In mid-September, the country with more than 1.3 billion inhabitants counted more than 90,000 infections a day - now, in February, there are just over 10,000 infections. A sloping curve - and that without major lockdowns. "Social distancing" is also an issue in India, but the economy has already reopened almost without restriction, travel in the country is possible without restrictions, people's everyday life is by and large taking its course again.

The question arises as to how the subcontinent managed to push its numbers down like this. It can't be because of the vaccinations. Although the country has set the goal of immunizing 300 million people by August, the Indian vaccination campaign has not yet got off the ground, as the figures on the “Our World in Data” site show. For comparison: Great Britain vaccinated 27 out of 100 people, the USA 19, Austria 6 and India, statistically speaking, not even one in 100.

So what can be the reason for the falling corona numbers in India? Several possible factors come into play here:

1) Uncertainties in counting

One indication that the number of new infections may not be entirely correct is the number of tests in India, reports CNN. In September there were still over a million daily tests, now this number is between 600,000 and 800,000 daily, estimates the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). However, the positive rate remains high - it was six percent in January and still over five percent in February. The persistently high positive rate could indicate that the infections are still circulating to a high degree, so the number of unreported cases is high.

2) Immunity in the big cities

The enormous population density in the Indian metropolises has contributed to the rapid spread of the virus, which has led to many people already carrying antibodies in their bodies. India has registered over eleven million infections in total and 156,000 deaths - according to the Johns Hopkins University count. National research by the ICMR shows a significant increase in the number of people with antibodies in several regions, especially in cities. A study carried out from August to September shows that more than half of Mumbai's residents have already had infections. That would be nine to ten million cases alone, most of which do not appear in the official counting method.

But India is still a long way from herd immunity. As a reminder: there were eleven million confirmed corona cases in India, not even one percent of the 1.4 billion population. Apart from the big cities, where the infection rate is possibly significantly higher than this figure shows, there are significantly lower infection and thus also antibody rates in many regions, estimates Dr. Hemant Shewade in conversation with CNN. And the head of the national vaccination institute, Adar Poonawalla, said in January that it could probably take another three or four years before the 90 percent of the population, which is necessary for herd immunity, is immune through surviving infection or vaccination.

3) demographics

Another point why the coronavirus infections currently seem to be low is the population structure of India. Half of the Indians are younger than 26 years old. Almost two thirds of the population are younger than 35 - at least those are the figures from the 2011 census. That means more asymptomatic infections and many mild courses that do not make it into the statistics.

4) geography

More fresh air, smaller social circles: 70 percent of Indians live in rural regions, which could also put a stop to large corona clusters. “A person who lives in a rural area does not travel by bus or train, their network is smaller. (...) There is less risk compared to the risk for someone in an urban environment, ”explains Raman Gangakhedkar to the US broadcaster CNN. Gangakhedkar is the ex-chief epidemiologist of the ICMR.

5) Government Action

And while there is currently no tough lockdown, the government's efforts to combat the pandemic could also bear fruit. Mask requirements, social distancing and rules for gatherings are still in place. The last hard lockdown ended in September - shortly before the last peak in infections.

Uncertain outlook

But these factors and the currently calmer pandemic situation in India are no reason for general relaxation. There are also regions in the country where the reported numbers are dramatic - for example in the state of Maharashtra, where stricter rules currently apply and a tough lockdown is being discussed again. The next wave seems possible in India at any time.

>> CNN article on falling new infections in India

>> Vaccination dates from “Our World In Data” on CNN

(Red./Ag.)