Yet there is little alarm and even less outrage. The coronavirus often slips off the front pages, and national health officials conduct briefings only once a week. Overall approval ratings for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi remain sky-high, although a quarter of those polled in the same recent survey said the handling of the pandemic was his biggest failure.
Government officials regularly highlight India’s comparatively low rate of deaths as a percentage of cases to indicate their efforts are working. Testing has increased dramatically but remains far below many other countries on a per capita basis. Some find reassurance in India’s overall fatality figure of about 62,000, which is lower than in Brazil and the United States at similar points in their respective outbreaks.
India has a predominantly youthful population, something that experts say may be helping to reduce deaths. Some also speculate the disease may be less severe here for as yet unproven reasons, although concerns remain that fatalities are missing from the official count.
In some cities, the pressure on the health system has also eased. In May and June, coronavirus patients faced frantic — and sometimes fatal — searches for scarce hospital beds in hard-hit metropolises such as Mumbai and Delhi. More recently, the number of new cases per day in those cities has stabilized.
But the virus has also moved into India’s vast hinterland, where medical facilities are even less equipped to cope with serious cases. Experts say there is a greater chance cases and deaths will be missed in such areas, where access to health care is a struggle even in normal circumstances.