Image: Amarjeet Kumar Singh/Sipa USA

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, people worldwide were worried. Dispatches out of Italy and New York depicted grim scenarios of flooded hospitals and dying patients. The poor responses of most of the Western world, supposedly more prepared than most for a pandemic, meant predictions of disaster for poorer nations -- especially India’s 1.2 billion people.

India seemed like the perfect place for COVID-19 to run wild: health infrastructure is underdeveloped, population density is high in urban areas, and the country already suffers from high rates of other diseases like tuberculosis and malaria. Everyone was preparing for a disaster -- but it never arrived.

In part at least, that was because of swift action by the authorities. The central government quickly acted, issuing a lockdown across the country and nearly everyone, from Prime Minister Narendra Modi down, got serious about masking up. Other factors also seemed to be working to the country’s advantage; India has a younger population than most other countries, and there was discussion of pre-existing immunity among the population.