India surpassed 10 million coronavirus infections on Saturday as the pace of infections slowed in recent weeks and despite many giving up on masks and social distancing.
The virus has so far killed 145,136 people in the country. India took 30 days to add the last million cases, the second slowest since the start of the pandemic.
India hopes to roll out vaccines soon as Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer and local company Bharat Biotech submitted paperwork.
However, many experts feel that the fall in cases suggests many Indians may have already developed virus antibodies through natural infection.
“Herd immunity is a huge part of it … which is helping us to break the transmission,” said Pradeep Awate, a senior health official in India’s worst-hit state of Maharashtra said.
India hit a peak of 98,000 daily cases in September, daily infections have averaged around 30,000 this month, helping India widen its gap with the United States, the world’s worst affected country with more than 16 million cases.
“If infections were surging, we would have seen the number of patients in hospitals go up, especially after the festival season. That has not happened,” said Raman Gangakhedkar, who until recently headed epidemiology at the Indian Council Of Medical Research.
A government-appointed panel tasked with making projections based on a mathematical model has estimated that 60% of India’s 1.35 billion people have already been infected with the virus.
“If the model is correct, it is unlikely that a second wave will happen, because once 60% have immunity, nothing can cause another wave,” said Manindra Agrawal, a committee member and professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in the northern city of Kanpur.
“However, the predictions of the model need to be independently confirmed by a sero survey for us to be certain.”