Why did COVID affect India much lesser than most of the Western countries?
India has much smaller incidence rate and fatality rate per million than most of the prominent countries. It has fared better, atleast as far as statistics go, than even some Asian countries. I am hesitant to use that term, but it does appear that India has achieved “herd immunity.” The new cases per million are now dropping in India.
There are several reasons. These are my hypotheses. There is no way to test them - or maybe nobody wants to test them! But they make logical sense to me:
We get a lot more Sun & are much more habituated to living, working in the Sun. We don't bathe ourselves in Sunscreen when we go out of the house every day. So, we get a LOT more Vitamin D than most of the western countries...simply because a) we get more Sun b) we are habituated to it & tolerate it better & don't block it as much. Vitamin D is known to be a good preventive as well as curative against COVID. It is quite possible that India is blessed with the biggest defense against COVID naturally!
There does seem to be some correlation between proximity to the Equator and lower cases of COVID in general, but I would prefer to study that better before arriving at some conclusive statement. The fact that Vitamin D helps in immunizing yourself against COVID is already scientifically proven, and hence, my earlier statement stands on its own.
We eat a lot more vegetables and lesser meat. Eating more vegetables gives you a lot more vitamins which improve your immunity. They also make you far less susceptible to direct infections from animals, via animal diseases. Although meat intake is on the rise even in India, even so, Indians still consume lesser meat than, say, Europeans. Our diet is naturally comprised of vegetables and spices. Even the meat eaters eat meat with vegetables and spices, as opposed to pure meat diets.
Indigenous Healing Methods
We are very accustomed to indigenous methods of curing & healing, and don't pop pills for everything. It is perfectly normal for us to take Ginger-Tulsi tea and inhale steam when we get the flu or cold and this is part of our lifestyle, not even counted as "medicine" per se. These recipes are common public knowledge. Politicization of these indigenous methods is a relatively newer phenomenon.
So, when we face first onslaught of any infection, we take these usual precautions & healing draughts etc. Our everyday food is already cooked in many spices which help in the healing process as well. These are our first defense against disease and they work VERY well. They have also been bolstering our immunity to infections over the years, not just today.
We are not that disconnected with nature...yet. Unlike western countries, we still don't live in AirCon 24x7 and we still do manual work in dust, soil, pollen, trash etc. We are not used to spic and span streets and roads. We have grown up this way. Our bodies are accustomed to fighting a basic level of infection. We are stronger simply because we have been exposed to every kind of infection a lot MORE over the years, and hence, are not threatened so easily.
Vaccines attempt to achieve this, by simulating this environment internally: normally a vaccine introduces your body to a less virulent or dead strain of the virus in small doses, so your body can identify the virus and synthesize antibodies to fight the virus. So, when the virus does infect your system, you already have antibodies to fight it. Prolonged exposure to a variety of viruses, some possibly very similar to COVID, could be another possible reason why the immune system of a typical Indian is stronger in its fight against COVID and has antibodies against it.
We believe in spirituality, spiritual healing, and the power of self healing. Even in our most difficult times, we turn to spirituality. The power of your own trust on Divine matters. It is perfectly normal for people to pray, observe vratas, perform pujas and homas and other rituals for well being and prosperity of their households, and for people when they are unwell. This is our “normal.” And though this is something eagerly mocked at, it aids in the healing process—it awakens the body’s inherent capacity to heal by connecting to something higher than just the body and mind.
The idea of spirituality exists in many religions and cultures, but the idea that we, the human beings, are something MORE than the body and mind alone, exists mostly in Sanatani cultures (cultures & religions originating in the Hindu stream of thought). This higher Self is the all knowing, all powerful, all permeating consciousness. We worship the consciousness in many ways, with and without form, and in nature in its myriad forms. The consciousness, when manifesting through matter, is what causes all healing. Herbs and medicines aid that process.
The Odds Were Against Us
It is a fact that India is a lot more “tightly packed” than most western countries, and even Asian countries. Our population per sq km is not a joke. Slums are almost 10x more tightly packed than other localities. We do not have a healthcare system that is anywhere comparable to that of western countries either. We are not inherently wired for social distancing. We are not inherently wired to stay at home. We have slums in every city. Many people cannot possibly observe social distancing if they are to earn a living and just survive. And yet, we fared better on COVID than expected. It would be bold, but not incorrect, to say that we fared better on COVID even though the odds were against us.
These are my own assessments, after watching the pandemic play out over 9+ months. As mentioned before, they are only hypotheses at this stage, but they do seem to explain a lot of what is happening. It is sad that a lot of the world is still not waking up to Ayurveda & Siddha forms of medicine, vegetarian lifestyle & spiritual healing. So much suffering can be avoided with that.