It seemed like India had COVID-19 controls in place that limited the spread of the coronavirus. While the United States, Brazil, Italy, and other nations faced staggering infection and death numbers in 2020, the country of more than one billion people was barely a blip on the radar.
That changed in 2021. While other developed countries were distributing vaccines, India started begging for basic health supplies.
At the peak of the pandemic in the fall of 2020, India topped out at nearly 100,000 daily cases. On April 27, 2021, over 360,00 cases were reported. The crisis was past the scale of anything the world had ever seen.
During that fateful last week in April, over 1.8 million new COVID-19 cases were registered. Health experts believe that the actual numbers were probably twice that amount.
What Caused the COVID-19 Spike in India?
Although the scale of the April outbreak in India could be driven by a more transmissible version of the coronavirus, several other factors create a perfect storm for infections to rise.
About 40% of the households in India have a multigenerational structure. That fact alone increases the risk of COVID-19 spreading.
India also has chronic underfunding of its healthcare system, which is only 3.5% of its GDP. France spends about 11% in comparison, while the United States reaches close to 20% in some years.
There was also a recent religious holiday where people came out by the thousands to celebrate. Many of them didn’t take personal precautions to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
It would be fair to say that there are equal parts of incompetence and complacency when looking at how India ran into this crisis. People ignored the warning signs, and the government didn’t take steps to mitigate the issue. Leaders even said on April 17, just ten days before the massive infections, that they were pleased to see large crowds.
As of May 31, the number of new cases was down to a 7-day rolling average of 175,000.