India is in the midst of a second wave of Covid-19 cases, which is currently making headlines around the world. The country, which has a population of 1.3bn, has seen over 17m Covid cases, and has reported over 200,000 deaths. Maharashtra, the state which contains Mumbai, seems to have led the way in this latest wave, having reported over 4m cases and over 30% of total deaths.1 It is a truly tragic situation and one that we think will take several months to resolve, although we have seen a reduction in new cases in Maharashtra in recent weeks which leads us to believe the second wave may have peaked in the state.
We note that there have been reports that the number of deaths and number of Covid cases are being under-reported. Our understanding is that the under-reporting of Covid cases is quite prevalent, as people are self-medicating at home without being tested, but that it is more difficult to mask the true number of deaths. In India, all adults are issued with biometric identification – part of the government’s drive for financial inclusion and social security – which means that while there could be delays in getting information, we think we will eventually get a full picture of what is happening. While there is some uncertainty in the numbers, we believe that India has the advantage of its young population and the fact that many elderly and vulnerable people have already had at least one dose of the vaccine.
At the moment the country is using regional lockdowns so that economic activity can continue in areas that are less affected by the virus. We think short-term growth will be impacted – recent estimates for GDP growth this financial year are in the 10-11% range2, lower than the 12.5% predicted by the IMF a few weeks ago. We think that there could be some further downside risk to these estimates, but expect that the latter half of the year will bring a strong economic bounce-back, similar to the ‘V-shaped’ recovery we saw after the country’s first wave of Covid back in 2020. We also think that the case for India’s long-term economic growth will not be impacted.
India’s government has already pledged to increase public sector spending on healthcare from just 1.2% of GDP currently, to 2.5% in the next 3 years.3 We see Covid accelerating the pre-existing trend of increased focus on health and wellbeing. In the Jupiter India strategy, we have significantly more exposure to the healthcare sector than the Indian stock market does4, ranging from domestic healthcare infrastructure, including hospitals and diagnostics, to pharmaceutical exports.
India is the world’s largest producer of vaccines, and vaccine production has gone into overdrive in recent weeks. India has recently allowed vaccine manufacturers to sell to both the government and private healthcare providers, which we think should improve the speed of the ramp-up and efficiency of vaccine rollout. The country is currently dispensing vaccines at a run rate of around 3m a day and has dispensed over 140m doses so far, second only to the US and China.5 At the current vaccine production schedule, without taking into account new production facilities announced over the last few weeks, we think that 400m people in India could be fully vaccinated by the end of August.6 There is a light at the end of the tunnel in that we think India will follow the path of the US and UK towards full vaccination in the next few months.
 Cumulative Cases – Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center (jhu.edu) – as at 26.04.2021
 10% – World Bank estimate, 1 April. 11% – ADB estimate, 28 April.
 As at 31.03.2021
 Data from Kotak Research, as at 28.04.2021