Should lockdowns be eased considering lower positivity rate or increasing vaccination rate? This is the question asked by Oxford Economics, a leader global forecasting and quantitative analysis firm, as states rush to open up post second COVID wave.
The firm suggested that states in India are in a hurry to end lockdown, which may prove counter-productive and invite fresh restrictions.
“States are easing lockdowns based on lower test positivity rates rather than vaccination progress,” Priyanka Kishore, head of India and South East Asia Economics at Oxford Economics, wrote in a report to clients. Kishore said it is a “risky strategy” because opening up too soon may increase the chances of renewed outbreaks.
The country’s financial capital, Mumbai, has almost opened up and New Delhi too is seeing increased business activities as infections dropped significantly over the last three weeks, the report said, adding that such bold decisions would risk consumption and business activity suffering with newer restrictions being imposed.
Priyanka Kishore said that economically significant states like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have unlocked or have eased mobility restrictions, which is dangerous because only about 4% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Kishore said that Oxford Economics’ growth forecast for India this fiscal is 9.1%, as against 9.5% suggested by the Reserve Bank of India. “Economic data also doesn’t support an upward revision to our growth expectations at this point,” she said.
Health experts have already predicted a third wave of COVID hitting India in the next 2-3 months even as the country struggles to recover from the impact of a deadly second wave, which saw daily positive cases going past 4 lakh and daily deaths spiking to 4,500.
The Delhi High Court recently took suo motu cognizance of people crowding local markets in Delhi and asked the Delhi and Union governments to make sure they do not commit mistakes which led to the second COVID wave spiralling out of control. It also asked the traders and people in general to strictly adhere to COVID appropriate behaviour. The Delhi trader body responded saying that it is not possible for them to control crowds and the responsibility rests with the administration and enforcement agencies.
Cases have been steadily rising in Maharashtra once again as the state reported 10,066 new COVID cases and 163 deaths in the last 24 hours.