Listening to Young Lives at Work in India: Fifth Call
Following the first wave in 2020, India experienced a devastating second wave of COVID-19 cases in April and May 2021, related to the Delta variant. The second wave resulted in a significant increase in both infections and fatalities, often overwhelming India’s health care systems and having substantial economic and social impacts as new restrictions were imposed. Concerns are now growing over the extent and impact of a third wave, driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. After a relatively slow start, initially due to supply shortages, the national vaccination programme has accelerated in recent months. As of 2 February 2022, 68 per cent of India’s total population have received one dose, with 51 per cent fully vaccinated. Booster doses are now being provided to frontline workers and those over 60 years old with vulnerable conditions, and vaccinations are now available for 15-18 year olds. In contrast to the strict national lockdown in 2020, the government decentralised policy decisions to state administrations during the second wave of infections, and is continuing to do so for the current third wave. Despite less severe restrictions, the economic impact has nonetheless been substantial, with the economy contracting by 6.6 per cent and unemployment rising by around 8–12 per cent in the second quarter of 2021. Around 250 million students in India were affected by school and university closures at the start of the pandemic, and despite some relaxation of restrictions in 2021, the sudden third wave has halted plans to get education back on track.