Pandemic Knocked on India’s Door a Year Ago, Today. Here’s a Look Back at the Tumultuous Journey


The pandemic officially knocked on India’s door one year ago today. A medical student who returned from Wuhan tested positive for the then mysterious coronavirus disease ravaging the Chinese city, on January 30, 2020. Since then, India has seen 1.7 crore cases of Covid-19, and 1.5 lakh people have lost their lives, as well. The country saw ‘waves’ of incidents – everything from the lockdowns, the migrant crisis, to the falling and ebbing tides of the virus itself in many states. Now, equipped with a nation-wide vaccination drive, India has still a long way to go.

Let’s look at some highlights of the pandemic:

First Case, Death, and the Curve

A 21-year-old MBBS student from Thrissur, Kerala, returned home on January 24 last year, and within two days of her arrival, developed a cough. She tested positive for the virus and was admitted to the district hospital. The country also saw it’s first Covid-related death on March 12, when a 76-year-old man in Karnataka died after returning from Saudi Arabia.

Since March 2020, India’s Covid-19 cases rose exponentially during the initial months. Then, they slowed down due to the lockdown, reaching a peak in the middle of September. After it, a decline of cases has continued for the last four months. During its peak, India saw more than 90,000 cases each day. It’s highest tally was 97,894 on September 16.

The central government said on Thursday it had curbed an increase in Covid-19 infections as a fifth of its districts had reported not a single new new cases for a week. The flattening of the curve comes as India started its vaccination programme two weeks ago, with 24 lakh frontline workers being covered till now. The country has recorded the highest number of cases in the world after the United States, though the rate of infection has come down significantly since a mid-September peak. Some studies have suggested pockets of India have attained herd immunity through natural infection.

Lockdowns, then Unlocking

On 23 March last, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an address to a keenly-watching nation announced India’s first lockdown for 21 days. The nationwide restrictions were meant to act as a preventive measure against the pandemic in India.

On 14 April, Modi extended the lockdown until 3 May, with some relaxations for regions where spread was contained from 20 April. The country saw its final lockdown when it was extended again on May 1, till May 17.

Districts were divided into three zones – green, red and orange – signifying the spread of the virus for relaxations to be applied. The National Disaster Management Authority on 17 May extended the lockdown till 31. Subsequently, the unlocking process began in India.

Migrant Crisis

The lockdown prompted a heart-wrenching migrant exodus in the country as crores of migrant workers and their families desperately tried to escape cities, thronging near bus stops and embarking on long and arduous journeys on foot. The reports and visuals exposed social and economic inequalities. Many precious lives were lost, until the government started special trains to escort the people back to their homes.

The Vaccine Journey

India’s Pune-based Serum Institute of India in April 2020 announced that it would apply for clinical trials of certain strains from Drug Controller General of India (DCGI). Company chief Adar Poonawalla said a Covid-19 vaccine would be delivered within a year. The Indian Council of Medical Research also partnered with Bharat Biotech in May to develop a COVID vaccine completely in India.

As a new year brought renewed hope after a tough year, so did the government’s announcement of conditional approval granted to SII’s AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine called ‘Covishield’ and Bharat Biotech’s ‘Covaxin’ vaccine. On January 16, the nation launched the world’s largest vaccination drive against the Covid-19 pandemic. In the first phase of the drive, 3 crore people are being vaccinated on priority – healthcare workers, frontline workers, the elderly and co-morbid people.

In latest news, only a day after the SII sought DGCI’s approval to conduct a small domestic trial of the Novavax coronavirus vaccine, Poonawalla on Saturday said the company is hopeful of launching the vaccine by June this year. The vaccine will be launched under the local brand Covovax.

What’s up Today?

India today saw 13,083 fresh cases. The national recovery rate, a year after, today stands at 96.98 per cent. The viral disease also claimed 137 more lives in the country in a span of 24 hours and the death toll now stands at 1,54,147. There are 1,69,824 active coronavirus cases in the country currently, which account for only 1.58 per cent of the total number of cases, the ministry’s data updated at 8 am showed. The COVID-19 case fatality rate stood at 1.44 per cent, it stated.

According to the ICMR, a total of 19,58,37,408 samples have so far been tested for the viral disease across the country, including 7,56,329 on Friday.

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