The second wave of COVID-19
As India’s economy embarks on a new financial year, a dark cloud is on the horizon: The second wave. Every day brings further reconfirmation that the second wave is no longer a Maharashtra-centric phenomenon. With the daily run rate of cases surpassing the first-wave peak, it’s no longer just a wave, but a potential tsunami. The second COVID-19 wave comes at a time when India’s economy has made a resilient comeback.
Reasons for the COVID second wave:
1. Protocol fatigue
- According to experts at the John Hopkins Medicine, human behaviour is the major factor for the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic. The strict lockdown that was imposed last year slowed down Covid-19 pandemic in India giving the authorities time to ramp of requisite infrastructure but it forced people to be cooped up in their homes for long.
- Covid-19 protocol too came in along with the pandemic. Wearing a face mask, washing hands regularly and maintaining social-physical distance was advised and those who did not follow were penalised in some cases. Many people actually ended up spending about one year inside their homes, practically locked.
2. Mixed Signal From Government
- Protocol fatigue appears to have affected the government machinery as well. Though health experts warned that coronavirus pandemic was not over even at a time when daily Covid-19 infections fell below 10,000-mark, touching the lowest on February 1, when ‘only’ 8,579 cases were recorded in the country.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speeches emphasised keeping the vigil against the Covid-19 pandemic. But in states, even his party (BJP) leaders and workers did not care to follow the protocol in organising political rallies for elections in Bihar last year, and theongoing assembly polls in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
3. Urban Mobility
- India has recorded over 1.2 crore cases of Covid-19 yet the pandemic is still mostly concentrated around cities, especially the bigger cities. These cities have greater mobility giving more opportunities for the virus to spread from one person to another when the guard is lowered.
- This is why cities such as Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Bengaluru, and Delhi are worst-affected in the second wave. However, they were also badly impacted in the first wave. The respective state governments have, therefore, imposed restrictions on travel from and to these cities in order to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 infections.
- Besides the human factors, the evolution of coronavirus is among the major reasons for the second wave. Scientists have detected numerous mutations in the SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. Some of these mutations have produced what they call is “variants of concern” or VOCs.
- India has reported such VOCs from several states including the worst-impacted ones by the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic. The second wave began in India around the time when scientists detected a double-mutant variant of SARS-CoV-2. Its correlation is not clearly understood yet. But many other mutant variants are known to have greater infectivity.
5. Increased Testing
- Increased testing is another reason why India is detecting more cases in the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The sero-surveys have shown that India had greater Covid-19 exposure than revealed through confirmed cases of coronavirus infection on the basis of laboratory tests.
- By the time, the second wave hit India, the availability of Covid-19 testing had improved tremendously compared to the first wave situation. Secondly, people were generally reluctant to undergo Covid-19 testing during the first wave of the pandemic as the fear of the unknown had gripped the general psyche of the nation. A lot of cases with mild symptoms never came up for testing.
- The virus is spreading faster. More people are getting infected by Covid.
- Covid second wave is turning into a heavy burden on the healthcare sector.
- The economy is just recovering from the first wave of Covid. And the present second wave may reverse the recovery of the economy.
- Businesses may face losses and hence banks may have to cope up with loan defaults.
Important Statistics ( The second wave of COVID-19 )
- The daily rise in COVID-19 cases in India crossed the grim milestone of one-lakh from 20,000 infections in just 25 days, unlike last year when it took 76 days for daily cases to reach the then peak of 97,894 on September 17, reflecting the speed at which the virus is spreading.
- As on day 81 of the vaccination drive on 6 April, a total of 33,37,601 vaccine doses were given.
- India surpasses US to become the fastest Covid-19 vaccinating country in world
Cases overview in India and the World as on April 6
Here is the latest date on Covid 19 cases from John Hopkins University USA.
Economic Impact of COVID 19 on India
- Indeed, in 2020, the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic in India has been disruptive. India’s growth in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year 2020 went down to 3.1% according to the Ministry of Statistics.
- The Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India said that this drop is mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic effect on the Indian economy. Notably India had also been witnessing a pre-pandemic slowdown. So this was a double whammy.
- The World Bank and rating agencies had initially revised India’s growth for FY2021 with the lowest figures India has seen in three decades since India’s economic liberalization in the 1990s. However, after the announcement of the economic package in mid-May, India’s GDP estimates were downgraded even more to negative figures, signalling a deep recession. Of course, it was not just India but the ratings of over 30 countries have been downgraded during this period. On 26 May, CRISIL announced that this will perhaps be India’s worst recession since independence. On 1 September 2020, the Ministry of Statistics released the GDP figures for Q1 (April to June) FY21, which showed a contraction of 24% as compared to the same period the year before. According to Nomura India Business Resumption Index economic activity fell from 82.9 on 22 March to 44.7 on 26 April.
- However, by September 2020, economic activity was nearly back to pre-lockdown. During this period, unemployment rose from 6.7% on 15 March to 26% on 19 April and then back down to pre-lockdown levels by mid-June.
- During the lockdown, an estimated 14 crore (140 million) people lost employment while salaries were cut for many others. More than 45% of households across the nation have reported an income drop as compared to the previous year.
- Supply chains have been put under stress with the lockdown restrictions in place.Those in the informal sectors and daily wage groups have been at the most risk. A large number of farmers around the country who grow perishables also faced uncertainty.
- Vendor of greens, essential supply chains and logistics. Last year, Stock Markets in India posted their worst loses in history on 23 March 2020. As economy recovered in 2021, stock market rose sharply to hit all time highs.
COVID-19 Vaccination in India
On 16 January 2021 India started its national vaccination programme against the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a matter of great pride that on April 6, India surpasses US to become the fastest Covid-19 vaccinating country in world.
The drive initially prioritises healthcare and frontline workers, and then those over the age of 60, and then those over the age of 45 and suffering from certain comorbidities.
In January 2021 Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres said that India’s vaccine-production capacity is the best asset the world has.
On 1 January 2021, the Drug Controller General of India, approved the emergency or conditional use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine AZD1222 (marketed as Covishield). Covishield is developed by the University of Oxford and its spin-out company, Vaccitech.
On 2 January 2021, BBV152 (marketed as Covaxin), first indigenous vaccine, developed by Bharat Biotech in association with the Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Virology received approval from the Drug Controller General of India for its emergency or conditional usage.
- According to health officials, India has administered 8,70,77,474 (87 million) vaccine doses across the country as of 6 April 2021.
COVID 19 – An opportunity for India? The Positive Impact
1. It’s a big opportunity for the Indian economy
- The Reserve Bank of India and the government will have to act quickly as a united front. Think tax cuts, increased liquidity, forbearance to lenders, credit and credit-guarantee to SMEs, and lower interest rates.
- The post-COVID-19 scenario for India does not look as grim as most people deem it to be according to leading economists of the country. Combined with a stimulus package of $100-120 billion, it will restore the purchasing power to the populace sooner than earlier deemed during the onset of the COVID-19 crises.
- If India takes a leaf out of the pages of the US and Singapore economies and trusts the indigenous businesses, the economic recovery will be much sooner for the country.
2. Crime incidents have become rarer
- Crime rates in Delhi and Gurugram have plummeted in the last one month after the COVID-19 fear almost paralyzed the cities.
- Delhi police have registered only 2,000 cases including petty theft, robbery and automobile theft since March 15, 2020. It represents a sharp 42% drop in crime rates in the capital of India. The drop in crime rates correspond to the reduction in the percentage of vehicle thefts, which has given some mental peace to owners of personal and commercial vehicles some mental peace in these tumultuous times.
- A similar drop in crime rates has also been witnessed across other major cities like Kolkata, Chennai, and Mumbai. The Prime Minister’s decision of a complete lockdown for 21-days and the vigilance by the local law enforcement has contributed significantly to the steep decline in the crime rate in several cities and towns.
3. Boosting localism
- Up until the beginning of 2020, it was all about internationalization and globalization of businesses. Right now, it’s all about staying home, inquiring about the health of your neighbours, leaving home only to buy locally and boosting the local community.
- This lockdown has inspired family-time and local-time among the millions of citizens living in the metros of the country. While people are rarely leaving their homes, if at all, they are spending more time on streaming platforms, playing board games with their family and spending quality time with their kids.
4. Wildlife is rejuvenating
- Apart from sighting the occasional leopard on the streets of quasi-urban Maharashtra and spotting flocks of flamingos in Navi Mumbai, other wildlife including that of mountain goats, bison, wild cats, fishing cats, civets and birds.
- Migratory birds are returning to lakes and water bodies they had once abandoned due to heavy pollution and human intervention.
- Nature is healing while people restrict their movement outdoors and vehicles retreat to garages and depots.
Overall, we can say that while COVID 19 presents a big challenge for India, there are two big positives for India:
- Structural Reforms taken by Government of India in 2020 and in 2021 Union Budget to make India economy more competitive
- Rapid Vaccination Drive in India. On April 6, India surpasses US to become the fastest Covid-19 vaccinating country in world