Sweden, which took a laissez-faire approach that some say amounted to an attempt to create herd immunity, the phenomenon seems to have happened in India unwittingly. The country pursued a strict lockdown in May, but the living conditions of its urban poor who often reside in densely packed slums may have proved too ideal an environment for virus spread.
Evidence for this hypothesis comes from a recent slowdown in new cases in the surveyed areas. New infections in Mumbai’s slums have slowed to a trickle even as residents emerge from their shacks and tenements to try to resume normal life. Delhi’s new cases have also fallen from their peak, though there are signs that the city is relying too much on rapid antigen tests that throw up a high level of false negatives. Still, hospitals in the city who were turning patients away for lack of beds in June now report plenty of vacancies.
Despite this, the slowdown of infection growth in cities has only been surpassed by an acceleration of spread in its vast rural hinterland, where a lack of health-care will only intensify suffering. Herd immunity or not, India is nowhere near the end of its bruising battle with the coronavirus.