As the coronavirus epidemic hit the world, the US, India and Brazil became the top three most-affected countries. While the US is still fighting the spread of COVID-19, the dramatic decrease in coronavirus cases in India and low fatality rates over the last few months have puzzled experts. Some even call it a mystery.
But a scientist from the US, Yaneer Bar-Yam, said that the government of India is responsible for the so-called 'mystery'. According to him, the credit should go to the Narendra Modi-led government that identified and leveraged its strengths to limit the spread of the virus in the country.
He also added that underlying factors, such as successful response efforts, less urbanization, low rates of community spread, limited travel and localized tourism helped India mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
India and the Battle Against COVID-19
As of March 3, India has reported over 11, 139,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 157,000 deaths. In September 2020, the country was confirming almost 100,000 cases per day. But that number dropped to about 12,000 as India has effectively flattened the curve. The fatality rate has also dropped sharply.
Bar-Yam pointed out some specific decisions which were taken by the government of India to fight the COVID-19 spread. Some of these measures were severe restriction on travel and gatherings, localized lockdowns and school closures. According to him, there were a few more steps that helped the country, including rapid ramping of industrial production of masks and PPE kits, improvements in case identification as well as testing capacity.
"The message to go out from India, therefore, is 'restrict travel in areas wherein cases are there, isolate cases and don't allow them to transmit infection'," said the expert.
Nine Major Steps
Bar-Yam has published a list on his website endcoronavirus.org. He noted nine major actions taken by the government of India that helped reduce the infection cases. These are:
- India was divided into three zones—red, orange and green. This helped the country manage the local lockdowns. When the government imposed strict lockdowns in the most affected areas, authorities lifted restrictions in unaffected districts and allowed to open some sectors to fight economic challenges.
- Travel restrictions were one of the major steps and the Narendra Modi government strategically regulated the movement of people by issuing e-pass with checks on state borders across India.
- Bar-Yam also noted that the effects of isolation and contact tracing of people who test positive for the coronavirus-caused disease. He said that quarantining of primary high-risk contacts has been an effective strategy.
- The shutdown of schools and colleges also helped a lot. Recently, after the country started to report a low number of cases, the government decided to reopen the institutions partially.
- The Indian industry has also responded to the crisis by producing masks and PPE kits at a greater pace—not only for the country but also for export around the world.
- India started with a single lab to perform RT-PCR tests for the disease and now there are more than 2,300 labs. It helped reduce the COVID-19 test result return time and strengthened isolation, as well as quarantine strategy.
- The government of India also focused on the public awareness campaign. Cautionary caller tunes for all the citizens and heavy fine for not wearing mask were all part of a strategy that led many people to follow government orders.
- In urban areas, refinement of lockdowns, travel restrictions and rapid case identification helped limit the spread.
- The American scientist also said that the COVID-19 vaccination drive is expected to support India while fighting new outbreaks.