A Year Of COVID-19 In India: The Highs And Lows

A year after the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the country, India has vaccinated close to 40 lakh health workers

On January 30, 2020 a student flying from Wuhan, China to Kerala, became the first person in India to test positive for novel coronavirus. A year and a name change later, the number of COVID-19 cases in India stands at 1.07 crore, with over 1.51 lakh reported deaths and over 1.69 lakh active cases.

Two other students flying from China were the other earliest reported cases which led to the Ministry of Health issuing guidelines and notifications to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

In February, the country witnessed no new cases only to have a flurry of cases in March across the country from people travelling from UAE and Italy along with China. This increase in cases led to Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing a nation-wide lockdown from March 25 to May 31.

The government started reopening services from June hoping to bring the number of cases under control but the plan backfired. The country witnessed close to one lakh new cases and 2000 deaths daily in August- September. November onwards, the situation in the country has improved with the number of new cases decreasing. India's testing capacity has also improved over the months.

With actively using the tracing-testing-tracking-treating approach, pharmaceuticals and vaccine manufacturers in the country were also looking to find therapeutics and vaccines to combat the virus.

Mumbai emerged as the original epicenter of the virus which later shifted to Delhi, Pune, and Bangalore. Currently, Kerala has the highest number of active cases in the country followed by Maharashtra.

On January 16, India initiated its vaccination drive with the goal of vaccinating over 30 crore people in the preliminary stages after it approved two vaccines. While Serum Institute of India is manufacturing Covishield produced by Oxford University, Bharat Biotech produced Covaxin in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research. The health ministry has formulated a clear set of operational guidelines for ensuring that administration of the vaccine is carried out smoothly.

COVID-19 Misinformation Across The Year

Misinformation related to COVID-19 has been rampant even before the virus was reported in the country. Non-allopathic approaches to stave or cure the virus along with Patanjali claiming to have found a cure formed the crux of the scientific misinformation. Vaccines were further targetted by several conspiracy theorists who were already questioning the origin of the virus.

The misinformation, however, was not limited only to the science and public health aspects of this disease.

Images and videos from China were shared with misleading narratives to suggest that China was undermining its cases by either not revealing or killing people who were testing positive for the virus. In March, a breakout of cases at a Tablighi Jamaat congregation led to an increase in the fake news surrounding the community. Several posts claimed that the Muslim community was intentionally spreading the virus in India.

The unprecedented national lockdown triggered many people working in cities to return to their home towns. This movement was also an impetus for the spread of misinformation about migrants.

Along with misinformation, across the year India witnessed several scientific and administrative highs and lows while tackling the virus.

The Highs

The National institute of Virology, the apex institute for infectious diseases in India, prepared itself for testing as soon as the first case was detected in the country. In the course of the next six months, the country ramped up its testing capacities exponentially by even bringing in the private sector into the fray. The NIV also became the first institute in the world to isolate the British variant of coronavirus that was reported in December.

India also took the Prime Minister's call of Atma- Nirbhar Bharat, seriously as it ramped up its production of masks, syringes, ventilators, and initiated vaccine production. Currently, there are over 4 vaccines that are indigenously being produced in the country.

The Dharavi model- how one of the world's most densely populated slums curbed the spread of the virus was appreciated even by the World Health Organisation.

India has vaccinated close to 40 lakh health workers since initiating its vaccination drive on January 16, making it one of the quickest in the world to reach this target.

The Lows

India's dependence on traditional medicine for treating COVID-19 even before preliminary studies were conducted with the products was criticised by the medical associations and scientists in the country.

Furthermore, the sudden lockdown left many people to take adverse steps to protect themselves from the virus. The state of the migrants was reported across international media.

The lockdown and the mismanagement also did not allow the health infrastructure to be prepared for the onslaught of the increasing cases. Several public hospitals were flooding with patients while fires were also reported at COVID-19 wards after ventilators broke down as they were continuously being worked.

India's haste for an effective vaccine was also questioned by the scientific community. In June, Dr. Balrama Bhargava, the director general of the ICMR announced that a COVID-19 vaccine would be available by August 15 in the country and later backtracked from his statement.

The indigenously produced Covaxin was approved while it is still in Phase III trials and its efficacy results have still not been determined. Since beginning vaccination, 10 health workers have died in the country but the government claims that neither of the vaccines are responsible for the deaths.

Updated On: 2021-01-31T01:19:32+05:30
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