Opinion | India’s Covid Crisis Could Happen Anywhere

By Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo

Drs. Banerjee and Duflo won the Nobel in economic science in 2019 for their approach to alleviating global poverty.

It will be a while before it’s fully understood why India has been so swiftly and so disastrously engulfed by the coronavirus. But there is one thing for sure: India’s problem is now the world’s problem.

India shut down too abruptly when the virus arrived, and then was too quick to reopen. In March 2020, the country was locked down at four hours’ notice though it did not yet have many cases. Millions of people, many of them migrant workers, were left stranded without food and shelter. Facing economic disaster, the government reopened the country before the pandemic really took hold.

What is happening in India now is quite similar to what the United States experienced in its coronavirus surges. The Indian states where deaths started to mount again in March and April simply closed their eyes and hoped it would go away. After all, India’s first virus wave receded, for reasons that remain unclear.

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