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India’s sales of diesel, a bellwether for the nation’s economic activity, remained below pre-virus levels last month due to the slow rollback of some restrictions following a deadly wave of Covid-19.

Diesel sales in July were about 11% below the same period in 2019, according to preliminary data from India’s three biggest fuel retailers. However, sales of gasoline have rebounded above pre-virus levels, officials said, as people make use of their own vehicles to avoid public transport and possible infection.

The recent brutal wave of Covid-19 has receded and most stay-at-home orders have been eased, although some restrictions and localized lockdowns continue in certain regions. These curbs have been extended due to the looming threat of another outbreak and the slow pace of vaccinations, hurting the economy.

Sales of diesel -- which account for about 40% of nationwide oil consumption -- are expected to fully recover by November, Shrikant Madhav Vaidya, chairman of top fuel retailer Indian Oil Corp., said July 30. Overall oil consumption, including jet fuel, should return to normal by March, he added.

Spokespeople for Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum Corp., and Hindustan Petroleum Corp., declined to comment. The three retailers account for more than 90% of the nation’s fuel sales.

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