After two years of restrictions to counter the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian government on 31 March 2022 rolled back almost all COVID-19 restrictions. Since the start of the pandemic, the country has officially recorded a total of over 44 million cases and over half a million COVID-19 related deaths. The surge in infections and deaths was concentrated around three distinct periods, accompanied by a slew of containment and health measures issued by authorities at the federal and state level.

In the initial stages of the pandemic India’s policy response was touted as one of the strictest in the world, with a countrywide lockdown enforced by the federal government on states and citizens through emergency powers that were invoked at the time. In subsequent waves of the pandemic, more power was devolved to states to govern their citizens, but the tools used by policymakers remained largely the same.

This paper tracks the evolution of the Indian government policy response to the coronavirus pandemic from January 2021 to September 2022. We use data from the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, collected for Indian sub-national jurisdictions (i.e. States and Union Territories), for Containment and Health policies. Economic support policies and specific indicators collected in our wider dataset on Vaccine policies is not included in this analysis.

Key findings

  • India experienced essentially three periods of COVID-19 restrictions. Following a stringent set of restrictions in 2020, federal and state governments did not update official guidance and policy between October 2020, when the last restrictions from the first wave (instated by federal mandate) were relaxed, and March 2021 when the second wave of the pandemic was taking off in a few states. At this point stringent restrictions were re-introduced by state-level authorities.
  • State authorities across the country used a very similar basket of containment measures. School closures were deployed by almost all states in the country to control the spread of the virus. With rising case levels in the second wave in April 2021, stay-at-home requirements or curfews, workplace closure requirements, and subsequently restrictions on gathering size and public events were also adopted.
  • There is significant temporal variation in when restrictions were imposed by states, linked to political activities like rallies for upcoming elections or important political events, around the second wave of the pandemic.