Booster shot
THE WEEK|April 25, 2021
Picking up the pace of vaccinations is not only a health and welfare concern, but also key for India’s economic prospects
NACHIKET KELKAR

INDIA’S ECONOMY CAME to a grinding halt after the lockdown in March 2020; the GDP contracted 23.9 per cent in the April-June quarter. However, as the restrictions were eased, the rebound was sharp, across the board—be it passenger vehicle sales, airline traffic, industrial production or retail consumption. But, the second wave of Covid-19 now threatens the nascent economic recovery.

The situation is already bad in Maharashtra, one of India’s most industrialised states. The state government has imposed Section 144 till May 1. While it is not a complete lockdown, there are major restrictions, including closure of non-essential retail, hotels and bars. Manufacturing, not part of essential services and not export-oriented, has been closed, too. Several other states such as Delhi, Karnataka, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, have night curfews.

The restrictions are already having an impact on business across the country. As per the Confederation of All India Traders, retail business fell 30 per cent in one week, while consumer footfalls reduced by almost 50 per cent. People reducing travel is affecting airlines, too. In the week ended March 27, there were 2.51 lakh average daily fliers, according to ICICI Securities. This reduced to 2.39 lakh in the week ended April 3.

The hospitality industry, too, is set to take a big hit with international travel restricted and domestic travel plans being postponed. In 2020, hotel occupancy rates in Delhi tumbled 32 per cent, while Bengaluru saw a 39 per cent slump, as per consulting firm JLL. It stated that the surge would have some impact on both commercial and leisure hotel markets across the country. In particular, business travel, which accounts for a lion’s share of the market, is expected to see a muted recovery.

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