New Delhi: At least half of India’s population now has antibodies against Covid-19, according to estimates made by Credit Suisse, a global brokerage house.
Neelkanth Mishra, co-head of Asia Pacific Strategy and India Equity Strategist, Credit Suisse told ThePrint that many districts in India could now be well beyond herd immunity even for the much more infectious delta variants.
According to Mishra, the company’s estimates show that around 77 crore Indians are likely to have developed Covid-19 antibodies, so far. This is around half of India’s total population, which is estimated to be approximately 139 crore at present.
Following such high seroprevalence, Mishra believes that the relaxation of lockdowns now could lead to a steep rebound of GDP in India.
The premise of the Zurich-based firm’s calculation is the study by the Indian Council of Medical Research where the infection-to-case ratio was 28x — 1 crore cases and 28 crore people with antibodies.
The survey by ICMR showed that by mid-December 2020, about 21.4 per cent or 28 crore Indians had been infected by SARS-CoV-2.
However, Mishra added, that these estimates are based on hypotheses and a national seroprevalence survey should be conducted to check the real status.
“Of course, this is just a hypothesis. Measuring this is an important step forward: the reason why we recommend a granular and nation-wide seroprevalence study,” he said.
Conservative model shows over 70 crore Indians have antibodies
According to Mishra, compared to the first wave, the second wave has had higher positive test ratios. Therefore, the ratio of people with antibodies will at least be the same as the first and “possibly even higher”.
“If, to be conservative, one model with 20x, we are at about 60 crore infections (28 crore in the first wave and 32 crore in the second wave) in addition to 17 crore people with at least one jab of the vaccine,” he said.
The estimates show that around 77 crore people by now would have antibodies, as a result.
Explaining further, he said, “From this you take out say 5 crore for double-counting — such as people infected twice or thrice or overlaps between those with infections and those with vaccination — and you still have around half the population with antibodies.”
Changing the multiplier, the estimates on prevalence of antibodies becomes even higher.
“If you use 30x, many districts would be well beyond herd immunity even for the much more infectious Delta variant,” Mishra said.
Rebound of GDP likely to be steep
Mishra also noted that the GDP should improve significantly after lockdown restrictions ease and the the rebound is likely to be “steep”.
In 2020-21, the Indian economy contracted by 7.3 per cent against a 4 per cent expansion in 2019-20.
“If active cases continue to fall as steeply as they have been, relaxation of lockdowns is likely to be faster. While we need to be on the lookout for another surge in cases as activities resume, the likely high seroprevalence should reduce the risk of that occurrence,” said Mishra
He added that the impact of the first wave on the asset quality was “much lower than initially feared”.
The stress of Covid-19 on larger banks was restricted to 1-2 per cent of the loans and 3-4 per cent for most smaller banks, which is much less than had been feared.