Students and staff of a medical college take part in a vaccination promotion in Bangalore. Photo: Manjunath Kiran/AFP

A year after reporting the first Covid case, India says it has flattened the curve and brought down the fatality ratio, suggesting it has by and large overpowered the virus. The fatality ratio has come down to to 1.4% of the total number cases from a high of 3.4% in mid-June last year.

Success in suppressing the virus has given the central government confidence to further relax lockdown restrictions.

The measures are expected to help increase mobility of workers, critical for the manufacturing sector, as many skilled workers are tied down in villages away from business centers.

The government is easing restrictions on gatherings of more than 200 people for social, religious, sports, entertainment, educational, and cultural purposes from February 1.

Cinemas, theatres and other enclosed halls, including business exhibition halls, will be permitted to accept more than 50% of the capacity. Swimming pools are being opened for all after being restricted to sports people.

The railway is getting ready to increase services to near pre-Covid levels, and the Civil Aviation Ministry will decide on further opening up of international air travel to passengers. Restrictions on movement of people and goods between districts and states and neighboring countries for trade are being withdrawn.

Mumbai’s century-old suburban rail network could be thrown open to most commuters as early as next week.

The creaky system moves more than 7 million commuters every day. India’s commercial capital is the largest contributor to the national exchequer and home to the central bank, main stock exchanges, diamond, bullion and commodities trading center, and the world’s most prolific movie-making industry.

A medical worker prepares to inoculate a woman at the Civil hospital in Amritsar. Photo: Narinder Nanu/AFP

Lockdown relaxation is expected to play a key role in lifting economic growth out of the expected 7.5% contraction in the year to March 2021.

Conducting 194 million tests may have helped India ensure 10.37 million recoveries out of the 10.7 million Covid cases, government officials say. The number of active cases has shrunk to just 175,328 and has been steadily shrinking. Of the total active cases, just 0.46% are on ventilators, 2.20% are in ICU and just 3.02% are on oxygen support, according to government data.

Aiding the country is the world’s largest vaccination exercise. India had up to Thursday inoculated 2.3 million frontline workers, healthcare and medical staff, police and other government staff.

India expects to emerge as the third-highest among countries providing vaccination coverage in a few days from sixth position at present, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said. The country has put to rest the controversy regarding the use of a locally made vaccine with unfinished phase-3 trials along with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine being produced by Serum Institute of India.

Adding confidence is the low number of Adverse Event Following Immunization cases of 16 hospitalizations.

Still, the battle against the global pandemic hasn’t been easy for any country, especially the US and some European countries that are still battling the second and third waves of the virus. The US is still reporting about 4,000 daily deaths.

The United States with 26.2 million cases leads the global tally, with India and Brazil following with 10.7 million and 9 million respectively. Despite having the second-highest number of cases, in terms of daily increase in number of cases India ranks No. 13 and in cases of daily fatalities No. 18, with countries from Europe and the Americas among the worst affected.

With 152,016 deaths Mexico is poised to overtake India from the third position with 153,885 deaths. In Asia, Indonesia has replaced India with the highest number of daily cases and fatalities. The spread of Covid across India too has shrunk, with 70% new cases coming from states of Maharashtra and Kerala, and as many as 191 districts out of 718 Covid-free for between one week to one month.

While the government is able to indulge in chest thumping, an independent institute has ranked its performance much lower than most of its neighbors and countries with comparable economies and population.

India was ranked 86th in a study of 98 countries by the Lowy Institute, an independent international policy Sydney-based think tank.

Lowy Institute compared the average performance over time of countries in managing Covid-19 in 36 weeks after the 100th confirmed Covid case. Countries were judged on six parameters including confirmed cases, deaths, cases per million, deaths per million, cases as a proportion of tests and tests per thousand people.

Pakistan ranked much higher at 69 and Bangladesh at 84. The US was at 94, with Mexico and Brazil taking the last two spots. New Zealand, Vietnam and Taiwan were rated the best performers in containing the virus.