On Tuesday night, in his address to the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi confirmed that Lockdown 4.0 is coming, although this time the rules would be different. With no sign of the Covid-19 pandemic abating, it was all but expected.
How then did India fare in the first three lockdowns? The answer, as always, lies in the indicator one chooses to look at.
On the most basic indicator, the news is not good. The average number of new cases adding every day has risen during each successive lockdown period, and Lockdown 3.0 is currently adding six times as many cases every day compared to Phase 1.
However, the average daily growth in cases has slowed down with each successive lockdown period, and the daily growth rate of cases in the second and third phase of lockdown is half of what it was in the first three weeks of lockdown.
This trend holds for deaths as well. While the number of deaths recorded each day has grown, they are growing at a slower rate.
However, one number is worrying. India’s case fatality rate (the number of deaths proportional to total cases recorded) has risen slightly during each lockdown period, meaning a growing share of confirmed cases have ended in deaths. India’s fatality rate, however, remains lower than European and North American countries.
All but two states mirror the national trend of daily rising cases under lockdown. Kerala and Telangana are the only states that have registered a dip in the number of cases recorded each day from Lockdown 1.0 to 3.0. Telangana, however, suffers from gaps in its official data, and Kerala is bracing for a possible rise in cases with a high volume of incoming international travelers.
All European countries that went into strict lockdowns saw a decline in daily cases before opening up. The United Kingdom’s lockdown resembles the Indian lockdown most closely in terms of time, although when the UK went into lockdown, it already had over 11,000 cases compared to 570 in India, so it could be argued that it was closer to its peak.
That been said, the number of daily cases reported in the UK during each of India’s lockdown phases has declined steadily. The UK continues to report a high death toll far higher than India although it has declined between India’s second and third lockdown periods.
If Lockdown 4.0 is indeed, as is being suggested, an opening up of travel and work with social distancing, India will have to be mindful of the fact that it is exiting a strict lockdown without yet having reached a comfortable position in its battle against the spread of the virus.