India’s economy has suffered even more than most

May 21, 2020

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EMERGING FROM two months under one of the world’s most stringent covid-19 lockdowns, India faces a double dilemma. The stay-at-home rules did indeed bend the virus’s growth curve. This means that, so far, fewer Indians are known to have died of the disease than Swedes, even though India has 134 times more people. Yet India’s lockdown failed to bend it far enough. “We put more effort into containing the people than containing the virus,” as one epidemiologist puts it. As a result, official covid-19 deaths have risen steadily to 150 a day and are still rising. The streets and workplaces that 1.3bn Indians are returning to will be more virus-infested than when the lockdown started.

Already, however, India has paid a heavier economic price for the lockdown than have many countries initially hit harder by covid-19. In March alone no fewer than 140m workers are thought to have lost their jobs, catapulting the unemployment rate from 8% to an unprecedented 26% nationwide (see chart). Some 10m-80m...

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