NEW DELHI, Nov 23 (Reuters) - India reported 7,579 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, the smallest rise in one-and-a-half-years despite huge festival gatherings in recent weeks, thanks to rising vaccinations and antibodies from prior infections.
The country of 1.35 billion celebrated Durga Puja in October and Diwali this month, during which millions of people shopped, travelled and met family, mostly without masks. Mask-wearing is nearly non-existent outside the big cities.
"Even after Diwali, we are not seeing a surge," said M.D. Gupte, a former director of the state-run National Institute of Epidemiology, attributed it mainly to the presence of antibodies in a huge majority of Indians through natural infection.
"I think we are much safer now."
Government surveys have estimated that nearly 70 per cent of Indians had been naturally infected by July, following a record rise in infections and deaths in April and May.
So far, 81 per cent of India's 944 million adults have received at least one dose of vaccine and 43 per cent have had two doses. Vaccination for people under 18 has not yet begun.
India has reported a total of 34.5 million COVID-19 cases, second only to the tally in the United States. India's COVID deaths rose by 236 in the past 24 hours to 466,147.
Daily testing has also fallen, dipping below 1 million on Monday compared with a capacity of more than 2 million.