It was inexplicable. Was it the Indian climate? A protection conferred by childhood immunisations? Some speculated India may have naturally reached herd immunity. It was a tantalising idea that took hold in India’s highest circles of policymaking, media and science – even a government-commissioned study suggested herd immunity may indeed have been achieved. It would prove one of the most fatal miscalculations of the Covid-19 pandemic so far.
Now, with daily cases crossing 360,000, and recorded deaths beyond 3,200 per day, many see the lull between Covid-19 waves as a cruel illusion. “The elections, religious festivals and everything else opened up completely,” says Sujatha Rao, a former secretary of the Indian ministry of health and family welfare. “That was a very bad mistake and we have paid a very dear price, a heavy price for that oversight.”