Meanwhile, the United States is closely monitoring India’s Covid challenge and will “respond positively to any Indian requirement,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is said to have assured External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar during a “productive discussion” Friday. This was their second interaction after their May 3 meeting on the sidelines of the G-7 Foreign Ministers’ meeting in London.
Sources said that the two discussed how ramped-up vaccine production in India can address both domestic needs and the imperatives of global public health. To that effect, India and the US will collaborate bilaterally, in the Quad format, and through multilateral initiatives, sources said.
And as states begin cautiously calibrating how to unwind their lockdowns beginning June, they face a double challenge. Key indicators show that industry and business activities may not be as adversely hit by the second Covid wave as they were by a national lockdown last year, but they are still very vulnerable given the low vaccination levels among the larger, younger population.
And at the individual and household level, public fear and anxiety this time are deeper and have hit consumption and demand harder than last year on several accounts.
So Google mobility and other high-frequency data, until third week of May (see chart), point towards decline in activity on all fronts including retail, grocery, transit stations and toll collections as compared to March and April.
For example, according to Google mobility data, visits on May 18, 2020 (Monday), to grocery and pharmacy stores were down 21% compared to a pre-Covid base line. This year, on May 17, 2021 (Monday), the corresponding decline was sharper at 27.6%. Similarly, for workplaces, visits were down 45% on May 18 last year but down 51% this year.