India on Saturday crossed the grim milestone of 1 crore COVID-19 cases, 323 days after the first case of the disease was reported in the country
While novel coronavirus infections have been declining steadily over the past week, the fact that India reached a total of 1 crore cases is an indication of the severity with which the disease affected the country.
India is in the number one position in terms of the number of recovered coronavirus cases, followed by Brazil, according to the Johns Hopkins University, which has been compiling COVID-19 data from all over the world.
India is the second worst-hit nation in terms of COVID-19 cases after the US, while it is in the third spot in terms of fatalities globally after the US and Brazil, according to JHU data.
Here is a look back at how the pandemic affected India over the past 11 months.
India reported its first COVID-19 case 323 days ago on 30 January in Kerala, while the first death was reported on 10 March in Karnataka.
Early measures taken to combat the spread of coronavirus in India included screening air passengers flying into India. On 18 January, India began screening passengers arriving from China and Hong Kong. However, as noted by IndiaSpend‘s Fact Checker, when India reported its first COVID-19 case, airports were not screening passengers from countries other than China and Hong Kong, though 20 countries had reported cases by then.
As mentioned in an earlier Firstpost report, even on 3 March, the Bureau of Immigration’s advisory did not speak of screening passengers who were arriving from the United States or the United Arab Emirates, both of which had reported COVID-19 cases.
Universal screening of all international flights began on 4 March, by which time India had reported 27 cases of the novel coronavirus . On 22 March, India banned all international flights from coming into the country.
Lockdown and migrant crisis
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a sudden nationwide lockdown on 24 March, and appealed to people to ‘stay wherever they are’. While the lockdown was initially announced for 21 days, strict restrictions continued until the end of May, after which the first steps towards ‘unlocking’ various activities were announced.
In successive phases of ‘unlocking’, activities such as industries, restaurants, shopping malls and educational institutes were allowed to be reopened, although these relaxations did not apply to containment zones.
The lockdown triggered a massive humanitarian crisis in the form of migrant workers left with no source of income. According to data quoted by a report in The Indian Express, more than 1.06 crore migrant workers, including those who travelled on foot during the lockdown, returned to their home states. Images of migrant workers undertaking ardous journeys on foot back to their native states became emblematic of the unfolding crisis.
In late March and April, several cases of the novel coronavirus were traced back to an event organised by Tablighi Jamaat in Delhi. The Centre claimed that nearly 4,300 cases were traced back to this source. Several media outlets subsequently began a toxic narrative blaming the Tablighi Jamaat, and by implication, the entire Muslim community, for the pandemic. In multiple cases, courts have struck down charges against people accused in criminal cases. In fact, the Bombay High Court, in one such judgment, noted that foreign nationals who attended the Tablighi Jamaat event were made “scapegoats” following an “unwarranted propaganda” against them.
Peak and subsequent decline
Unlike many countries, COVID-19 cases rose exponentially during the lockdown, and the impact of the pandemic was felt the most in big cities, particularly Mumbai and Delhi.
Coronavirus cases crossed 1 lakh on 19 May, two days after India overtook China in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases reported. Through June and July, coronavirus cases continued to increase rapidly. On 12 June, India overtook the United Kingdom to become the fourth worst-hit country by the novel coronavirus in terms of absolute numbers, with over 3 lakh cases.
India became the third worst-affected country on 6 July, and became the second worst-affected country on 7 September. On 12 September, India recorded its highest spike of 97,570 people found positive in 24 hours.
October finally brought some relief in India as both new deaths and cases saw a decline of about 30 percent. By 5 December, India’s active caseload dropped to 4,09,689, after daily recoveries exceeded new cases for eight straight days.
As of 19 December, there are 3,08,751 active cases in the country which constitute 3.08 percent of the total caseload, according to official data.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, a cumulative 16,00,90,514 coronavirus samples have been tested up to 19 December, 11,71,868 of them on Friday.
What to expect in near future
PTI quoted Dr Samiran Panda, the head of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research as saying that the epidemiological curve has come down for some states, while there is a fluctuation for others.
“More states, we have seen effective control while in some of the states we need to be mindful and watchful. The state scenarios are different from each other,” Panda told PTI.
When asked if the second peak of COVID-19 can be worse, noted clinical scientist Gagandeep Kang opined the transmission will not be as rapid as was seen the first time and the peak will not be as high.
“I don’t think the exposure is enough to say that we have herd immunity and won’t need to worry about it again, but I think it is enough to ensure that we will have some level of protection so that the transmission will not be as rapid as was seen the first time and peak will not be as high as we saw the first time.
“The problem has not gone away it will not go away with herd immunity, but I don’t think necessarily we will see second higher peaks as has been seen in the West,” she said.
With inputs from PTI