Objective: To assess the impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) on the first wave of COVID transmission and fatalities in India. Methods: We collected data on NPIs, using government notifications and news reports, in six major Indian states from March to August 2020, and we matched these with district-level data on COVID related deaths and Google Mobility reports. We used a district fixed effect regression approach to measure the extent to which district-level lockdowns and mobility restrictions helped reduce deaths in 2020. Results: In most states, COVID deaths grew most rapidly only after the initial lockdown was lifted. District-level NPIs were associated with a statistically significantly lower COVID death count in three out of five sample states (district analysis was not possible in Delhi) and in the aggregate. Interventions that were most associated with slowing fatalities were temple closures, retail closures, and curfews. Discussion: Outside of Maharashtra (the first state struck) the first fatality wave appears to have been delayed by the national lockdown. Indias NPIs, however incomplete, were successful in delaying or limiting COVID-19 deaths. Even with incomplete compliance, limiting mass gatherings in face of incipient viral waves may save lives.
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