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Thomas Gallatin / May 6, 2020

Is India a COVID-19 Anomaly?

The world's second-most-populated country has hardly been touched by the virus. Why?

As of this writing, the total number of confirmed cases of China Virus in India sits at less than 50,000 with about 1,700 deaths attributed to the COVID-19 virus. With the second-most populous nation on the planet still classified as a developing country, many are wondering why India’s pandemic numbers are so low.

One would think that, in a nation that struggles with high poverty rates and low levels of healthcare access, the spread of the virus would be rampant and widespread. However, that does not appear to be the case.

Some claim that India’s rapid social distancing and stay-at-home mandates are the reason. Yet in a country as densely populated as India, with notoriously massive poverty slums, such massive lockdown measures are near impossible. If anything, one would expect to see deadly virus hotspots in these slums. Even so, the numbers suggest otherwise.

Could it be that many COVID-19 deaths have simply gone unreported? That’s a plausible theory, as roughly only 22% of all deaths in India are ever certified by a doctor. However, the trouble with this theory is that if it were so, one would expect to see a sudden spike in the number of overall deaths across the country — but that has not occurred. So, even if there has been underreporting of COVID-19 deaths, the overall number of deaths has not seen any significant increase.

Maybe India’s hot weather can be attributed with slowing the spread of the virus, though many experts note there is no evidence yet supporting such a conclusion. Can this apparent anomaly be attributed to environmental, genetic, or cultural differences, or a combination of all three? Whatever the reason(s), what this anomaly does show is that there is much yet to be learned about this novel virus.

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