365 days since 1st Covid death in India: Experts reveal strategy behind low fatality rate

On March 12, 2020, a 76-year-old individual, a returnee from Saudi Arabia turned the primary recorded sufferer of Covid-19 in India. An entire 12 months has handed since and the nation has recorded 11,308,846 instances of an infection and 1,58,326 Covid-related deaths so far.

A fatality rate of 1.40 per cent is seen as comparatively low for a rustic that has persistently managed to examine infection-induced fatalities regardless of preliminary predictions.

So what actually labored in India’s favour?


There is a common consensus amongst healthcare specialists and epidemiologists that India’s choice to go for an early nationwide lockdown paid wealthy dividends. At 555 confirmed instances, India imposed a strict lockdown on March 24, 2020.

“India’s lockdown, in addition to emergency response, also served as a mass education campaign. As a result, even the people in the farthest corners of the country knew that there was a problem and what exactly they had to do about it,” mentioned the previous president of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) Dr Rajeev Jayadevan.

Dr Jayadevan provides, “No other form of public communication (TV, paper, loudspeakers) would have made such a clear impact across the wide range of our people.”

An epidemiologist with the Public Health Foundation of India agrees, Professor Giridhar Babu agrees. He instructed India Today, “Early lockdown and timely intervention for prevention and response.”

Published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, a report titled ‘Pandemic preparedness and response to Covid-19 in South Asian nations’ says South Asian countries initiated interventions as early as February and March 2020 to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report reads, “All countries put measures in place to restrict incoming foreigners, did not permit foreign travel, air travel was suspended, and those who travelled to other countries were expected to quarantine for the number of days specified by the country.”


“We in India were prepared better than many other countries. Those countries that had a head start ahead of others have all done better. Those who delayed their response have all done badly. We were strict on travel in the beginning, when it mattered the most. We knew even the first patient here. People knew what to do long before the virus arrived,” Dr Rajeev Jayadevan mentioned.

Effective communication additionally appears to have labored in India’s favour. A examine by the University of Cambridge discovered that constant “nudges” by PM Narendra Modi performed a vital function in influencing folks to remain dwelling and comply with different restrictions throughout the lockdown regardless of excessive financial and social prices.

Dr Rajeev Jayadevan instructed India Today, “On the radio, digital media and newspapers, we spoke in one voice. So people were not confused. Contrast with the US, UK, Sweden who not only acted late from denial but gave confusing and conflicting signals throughout to their people, thus like a child who is the victim of parental conflict, people got a chance to choose what they wanted to do. That reduced the efficiency of the pandemic response.”

“Covid pandemic arrived at a much later stage compared with other countries. Time was available to learn from countries that had early peaks, and therefore [India] achieved better preparation in terms of the public health response. For example, this could have resulted in a lower viral load due to more people wearing masks,” observes Professor Giridhar Babu.

Professor Babu, a co-author of the University of Cambridge examine, says all South Asian nations averted the excessive mortality charges seen in Europe and elsewhere regardless of being densely populated.


South Asian nations have a youthful inhabitants in contrast with different nations, with a median age of 24.4 years. As the variety of Covid-related deaths disproportionately impacts older folks, South Asian nations could have a singular benefit.

Professor Gagandeep Kang believes that ‘Age construction of our inhabitants’ helped India throughout the pandemic.

India has a younger inhabitants, in accordance with the UN World Population Report. By comparability, the median age in France which has reported almost 7,00,000 instances and over 32,000 deaths with an obvious fatality rate of 4.7 per cent, is 42.3 years.


Experts additionally level at gross underreporting of deaths attributed to Covid-19 that might have led to an underestimation of the overall variety of casualties.

“However, the underestimation is unlikely to be substantial,” says Professor Giridhar Babu.

He provides, “While undercounting is present, it is not high as a differential of 10 times as we see in compared to the UK or US.”


“Although hypothetical at this stage, detailed scientific evaluations should be undertaken in these countries to determine if cross-reactive immunity plays a role in reducing severity and deaths,” epidemiologist Professor Giridhar Babu instructed India Today.

In specific, research needs to be carried out to look at if there’s any function for a possible pure collection of SARS-CoV-2 by pre-existing cross-reactive T- cell immunity. The potential function of cross-reactive immunity in lowering illness severity is unclear.

Asked about lesser virulent strains in India, Professor Gagandeep Kang says, “There is no evidence of any such thing.”

She provides that elevated severity has been seen solely in the case of the brand new variant from the UK in the final 3-4 months.

“On a case per case basis, we don’t have definite proof that variants will kill more people. However, there is considerable evidence that they are more transmissible. Thus by infecting more people, more people could die from it,” mentioned Professor Kang.

Dr Rajeev Jayadevan goes on so as to add that the per-person (particular person) death danger (at this level) will not be considerably greater for variants.

Experts additionally say that evaluating India with both Europe or the USA makes little sense. The comparative evaluation doesn’t make a lot sense contemplating the variations in the demographic profile.

“Rich countries have a much higher proportion of the elderly population often living in large nursing homes, and their non-communicable disease burden is considerably larger as a proportion. So, in a crude sense, the prosperity of a society is a risk factor for Covid-19,” says Oommen C Kurian, a senior fellow and head of Health Initiative at ORF.

Kurian tells India Today, “I think for the same reason, India’s death rates have been worse than our South Asian neighbours, possibly because despite the average population being young and old people more distributed across families, India is many islands of Europe spread across a large sea of South Asia, in terms of risk factors.”


Experts, nonetheless, level out {that a} decrease mortality rate in South Asian nations, together with India might not be sustainable over the long run.

To start with, greater than half of deaths happen in folks with non-communicable illnesses. The unfold of an infection amongst folks with co-morbidities over the long run could enhance mortality.

A scientific literature evaluation specializing in South Asian populations discovered that the mortality rate was greater in these with Covid-19 who additionally had Type-1 or Type-2 diabetes. This is another excuse why the low mortality rate can solely be an exaggerated approach to present that the pandemic response is best.

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