April 21, 2021

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Cases are rising as India races to vaccinate its population

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A health worker administers a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Bhopal, India, March 25, 2021.

STR | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

India’s Covid-19 cases are rising again and the country’s richest state is getting hit hard.

Maharashtra — home to India’s financial capital Mumbai — reported more than 248,000 new cases in just seven days, CNBC’s calculation of government data showed.

The country’s second most populous state accounted for 57% of all cases reported in India over the same period. Infection cases have been rising since mid-February, but fatality rate remains relatively low.

There are more than 580,000 total active cases in India, or about 4.78% of all positive cases, according to the health ministry’s daily update on Thursday. Five states — Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Chhattisgarh and Punjab — account for 78.9% of all active cases in India, with a majority of them in the western state of Maharashtra.

Maharashtra’s state government imposed night curfew last Sunday and banned all gatherings, including political and religious ones. It also enforced a mask mandate.

While authorities are debating on further restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, local media reports said that a total lockdown of the state — similar to last year’s nationwide lockdown — may not be in the cards.

Billionaire businessman Anand Mahindra, chairman of Mumbai-based conglomerate Mahindra Group, said on Twitter this week that a lockdown would hurt “the poor, migrant workers & small businesses.” Instead, he urged Maharashtra’s chief minister to focus on building up hospitals and health-care infrastructure and to avoid Covid-related deaths.

Economic impact limited

The economic impact from India’s second wave of coronavirus infection appears to be localized for now, Citi economists said in a report this week.

“Both the geographic nature of Covid spread and lower appetite among policy makers would keep lockdowns in 2021 more localized and less stringent,” said economists Samiran Chakraborty and Baqar M Zaidi. They pointed out that more than half of the active Covid cases are concentrated in 10 cities, with eight of them in Maharashtra.

Those 10 cities account for just around 10% to 12% of India’s GDP, according to Chakraborty and Zaidi.

Vaccination drive

Like most countries, India is also dealing with vaccine skepticism and a slew of misinformation that could potentially slow down New Delhi’s inoculation efforts.

India’s Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan this week urged people over the age of 45 to register for vaccination and said during a media briefing that, “vaccine hesitancy must go.” He also reportedly told the states to tighten lax coronavirus prevention measures immediately to avoid overwhelming the health-care system through a surge in infections.

Overall, India has reported more than 12.2 million infection cases since last January and over 162,900 people have died. Majority of the patients have recovered from the illness.

2021-04-02 00:42:01

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