An estimated two-thirds of people in India have Covid-19 antibodies, according to a new government survey that has raised hopes that the worst of the country’s pandemic crisis is over, despite a sluggish vaccination campaign.The survey of more than 36,000 people in 70 districts across 21 Indian states found that 62 percent of unvaccinated Indians had antibodies indicating past exposure to the virus.

The so-called seroprevalence study was carried out by the Indian Council of Medical Research in the last 10 days of June and the first week of July, just as a devastating second wave of Covid-19 infections was receding. Overall, more than two-thirds of Indians have antibodies, it concluded, either acquired from the vaccination campaign or past infection.

India has fully vaccinated just 6.5 percent of its population, while about a quarter of the population has received at least one dose.The ICMR figures appear to confirm what epidemiologists have long claimed: that India’s official coronavirus statistics — 31m confirmed infections since the start of the pandemic — vastly understate the true spread of the virus in the country.

Seroprevalence levels were highest — at about 77 percent — in people over the age of 45, the group that received first priority access to vaccines. Seroprechildren aged six to nine was 57 percent, while 61 per

18 had antibodies. People under 18 are not yet eligible