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India returns to normal life two years after the world’s largest shutdown

Commuters travel in a packed train in Mumbai, India, February 25, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

Students returned to school in Maharashtra state on Wednesday, nearly two years after India went into the world’s largest lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19, a sign of normal life resuming as infection rates plummet.

The news: According to data from the health ministry, India’s daily coronavirus infections increased by less than 10,000 for the third day in a row on Wednesday, reaching a level last seen in late December before the rapid spread of the Omicron strain.

  • In light of diminishing cases, Maharashtra state minister Aaditya Thackeray announced last week that schools in the state’s largest city, Mumbai, will resume pre-COVID attendance, reinstating all activities.
  • India has fully vaccinated over 765 million of its 940 million adult population, as well as over 28 million teenagers aged 15 to 18, but has yet to begin vaccinations for children under the age of 15.
Schoolchildren assemble for morning prayers after schools in the western state of Maharashtra reopen with full capacity following their closure due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Mumbai, India, March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

What are they saying: “Essentially it is more to do with the kind of severity India has seen, both amongst adults and children infected with the Omicron variant,” said professor of infectious diseases at St John’s Research Institute in Bengaluru, Uma Chandra Mouli Natchu.

  • “It appears the disease is significantly milder for both vaccinated individuals as well as for children, even if they are unvaccinated,” Natchu said.
  • “There is hope that people will continue maintaining social distancing and wearing masks as much as possible,” said Rijo John who is a health economist at the Rajagiri College of Social Sciences in Kochi.
  • “There is absolutely no reason to keep the economy under any kind of lockdown or restrictions – it is just the behavioural aspect of the people that needs to be observed and enforced as much as possible,” he said.
Students leave school after a majority of schools were reopened following their closure due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Ahmedabad, India, February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Amit Dave

What’s going on: After a long absence, bazaars in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s native state of Gujarat were back in full swing.

  • Following the lifting of a curfew last week at Ahmedabad’s famed Manek Chowk, a market that morphs into a hawker centre after sunset, patrons flocked in to enjoy dinner and late-night munchies.
  • Across the country, such indications of life returning to normalcy abound. Roads and trains are once again crowded as people return to work, movie theatres are reporting increased foot traffic, and eateries and gambling parlours in Gurugram, near the capital, New Delhi, are filled.
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