Half a million COVID-19 cases in India: How we got to where we are.

In less than five months, the COVID-19 outbreak in India has spread to all states and union territories, infecting more than five lakh people. The curve is not flattening as the number of active cases has climbed to around two lakh cases and is still increasing, and more than 15,000 people have died because of the virus.

How did we end up here?

India ignored the warning signs when the first few cases surfaced in Kerala and didn't screen all the international passengers up until March 6. ICMR didn't test people with COVID-19 symptoms without a recent travel history and a known contact that might have transmitted them the virus, up until March 20. The government's official line for the public as late as March 13 was that the coronavirus was not a health emergency.

Social distancing as a method of keeping the virus at bay was first officially flagged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he spoke to the nation on March 19 in order to call for a one-day 'Janata Curfew' for March 22. The first national containment measure in the form of a nationwide lockdown was only introduced on March 25, three months after the first COVID-19 case was reported and two months after the WHO declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. This announcement was not preceded by any official planning, leading to the large-scale movement of the urban poor as they headed for their homes in rural areas.

In some, the official strategy was an example of 'too little, too late' as hidden infections were already spreading in all parts of the country, followed then by 'too much, too soon' and not enough planning.

In this story, we look at some of the crucial moments of the outbreak and how it impacted our fight against the virus.

By: Devesh Kumar

December 31

On December 31, 2019, Chinese officials informed the World Health Organization (WHO) China Country Office that 27 cases of pneumonia of unknown cause were detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China.

Source: WHO

January 07

The pathogen was called coronavirus 2019 nCoV by Chinese authorities, identifying that it spreads via airborne droplets.

January 11

China reported its first known death from an illness caused by the new coronavirus. The patient was a 61-year-old man in Wuhan with abdominal tumours and chronic liver disease.

Source: The Wire

January 30

India's first novel coronavirus patient - a student studying at Wuhan University - was reported in Kerala's Thrissur district, as more than 7500 cases were reported in 20 countries of the world.

A week after claiming that the outbreak doesn't yet constitute a public emergency of international concern and that there is "no evidence" of the virus spreading between humans outside of China, WHO declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

The Wire published a detailed article by Priyanka Pulla on why India should worry about the new coronavirus reflecting on the new evidence that the 2019 nCoV can be transmitted by asymptomatic patients.

Source: The Wire, The Wire

January 31

India first airlifted citizens from China one month after the new disease was first reported

Source: The Wire

February 03

Kerala government declared coronavirus a state calamity after two more cases were reported in Alappuzha and Kasaragod district.

Source: The Wire, The Wire, The Wire

February 04

India canceled existing visas for Chinese and foreigners who had visited China in the last two weeks, the day after the death toll in China exceeded that of the 2002-03 SARS outbreak.

Source: The Wire, The Wire

February 11

WHO announced that the new coronavirus disease will be known by the official name of COVID-19.

February 27

India conducted the final airlift from Wuhan, China bringing back 759 Indians and 43 foreign nationals.

IAF flight also brought back 76 Indians & 36 nationals from 7 countries - Bangladesh, Myanmar, Maldives, China, South Africa, USA and Madagascar.

Source: The Wire

March 02

Two more cases were reported - a 45-year-old man in Delhi who had travelled back from Italy and a 24-year-old engineer in Hyderabad who had a travel history from Dubai.

Source: The Wire Science

March 03

Two months after the outbreak, Prime Minister Modi tweeted for the first time saying that "there is no need to panic" as "ministries and states are working together" to screen people.

This proved to be incorrect as 22 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed by the Health Ministry, the very next day, most of them who had recently travelled abroad.

Source: The Wire Science

March 06

Screening of all international passengers begins at airports. Earlier, passengers from only 'high risk' countries were being screened.

Source: The Wire Science

March 08

COVID-19 cases reported in 100 countries of the world, with more than 100,000 cases worldwide.

March 10

50 COVID-19 cases reported in India as the total number of cases doubled in just 4 days. 13 states and UTs in India had reported at least one COVID-19 case.

Most of the patients (23, including 16 Italian nationals) had a travel history to Italy. Besides this, four COVID-19 cases had a travel history to Iran and an equal number to the US.

Of the 11 cases of local transmission, 10 patients came in direct contact with people who had contracted the infection outside India.

The source of infection in the 11th patient was unknown, suggesting early signs of community infection.

March 11

The World Health Organization declared that the "COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic," which is defined as the spread of a new disease worldwide, for which most people don't have immunity.

March 12

India reported it's first death after a 76-year-old man from Kalburgi, Karnataka became the first victim of the virus in the country.

On this day, India also banned the entry of foreigners for a month suspending all visas for travel to India from March 13 to April 15.

Haryana with 14 cases declared COVID-19 as an epidemic.

Source: The Wire Science, The Wire

March 13

Odisha declared COVID-19 a 'disaster' and ordered the immediate closure of educational institutions, cinema halls, public swimming pools and gyms, even though the state had not reported a single case of infection.

However, officials from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India said that "coronavirus is not a health emergency and that there is no need to panic".

Source: The Wire, The Wire Science

March 15

Maharashtra overtook Kerala to bring the total number of confirmed cases to 100. Cases double every 5 days.

Source: The Wire Science

March 16

Delhi government ordered the closure of all gymnasiums, spas, night clubs and theatres until March 31 in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: The Wire Science

March 17

India had tested only 500 community cases of severe acute respiratory illness (SARI), thus limiting the testing to symptomatic people who had recently travelled abroad or came in contact with a known source.

Source: The Wire Science

March 20

ICMR expands the case definition for COVID-19 tests to include people with symptoms even if they don't have a recent travel history and a known contact that might have transmitted them the virus.

Source: The Wire Science

March 22

50 days after the virus was first reported in India, a 14-hour voluntary lockdown called 'Janata Curfew' was observed in India.

India reported a total of 360 cases and tested a total of 16,021 individuals until the Janata Curfew. The test positivity rate (TPR) was around 2.2%.

Source: The Wire

March 25

A nationwide lockdown was imposed till April 14, two days after the 'Janata Curfew'.

In his tweet, PM Modi said that "THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO NEED TO PANIC". However, he didn't mention how the essential supplies will be provided or how the migrant workers will survive in the absence of daily wages.

India reported 606 cases and ten deaths related to COVID-19 until this day with infections in 24 states and UTs. It had tested less than 20,000 individuals to date.

Source: The Wire, The Wire Science

Migrant worker exodus begins from Delhi and other cities.

Source: REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

March 27

The US recorded the maximum number of people infected with COVID-19, followed by China and Italy.

March 28

India reported more than 1000 confirmed cases, three days after the nationwide lockdown. Cases double every five days.

In a press briefing, the head of ICMR's epidemiology division said that patients suffering from SARI without any history of foreign travel or contact with anybody infected by the COVID-19 have tested positive for the virus. This was the first official confirmation that India has entered the third stage of the pandemic - community transmission.

March 31

The national capital's Nizamuddin area, emerged as one of the COVID-19 'hotspots' in India with a large number of attendees at a religious congregation held at the headquarters, or Markaz, of the Tablighi Jamaat, being tested positive.

Source: The Wire, The Wire

April 02

129 new cases in Delhi and 74 new cases in Tamil Nadu were linked to Nizamuddin Markaz congregation.

Nine people died in Telangana, all of which have attended the event in Delhi.

Source: The Wire

April 05

100 confirmed deaths were recorded.

Note: The map shows five states with the highest number of fatalities.

April 14

10,000 confirmed cases were recorded, as the nationwide lockdown was further extended till May 3.

All states and UTs of India (except Dadar Nagar Haveli and Sikkim) reported at least one case of COVID-19.

India tested a total of 2,30,000 individuals with a high test positivity ratio of 4.7%.

April 22

20,000 confirmed cases were reported as cases double every 7 days, even after one month of nationwide lockdown.

Source: REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

April 24

Dr VK Paul from NITI Aayog presented a chart predicting that India would have zero new cases by May 16. On May 16, India saw 4,987 cases, the highest single-day spike.

Source: The Hindu

April 29

1000 confirmed deaths were recorded.

Note: The map shows five states with the highest number of fatalities.

May 01

The nationwide lockdown was further extended till May 17.

May 07

50,000 confirmed cases were reported.

May 15

India Records 100 COVID-19 Deaths in 24 Hours.

Source: The Wire, REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

May 16

India with 85,940 cases overtook China in terms of the total number of cases reported.

Source: The Wire

May 17

Nationwide lockdown further extended till May 31, making it one of the longest lockdowns any country has imposed ever.

May 19

Cases continue to increase as 100,000 confirmed cases were reported.

India for the first time tested more than 100,000 samples (including the less reliable TrueNat and CB-NAAT) in 24 hours.

Source: The Wire

May 31

5000 confirmed deaths were recorded.

Note: The map shows five states with the highest number of fatalities.

June 08

Phased reopening begins after 75 days of lockdown, as India records more than 2,50,000 COVID-19 cases and 7200 deaths. At the start of the lockdown, India had reported only 606 cases and ten deaths.

Source: The Wire

June 12

More than 10,000 new cases were reported.

Source: REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

June 17

India registered the highest-ever spike of 2,003 COVID-19 deaths as Maharashtra and Delhi added 'backlog' fatalities to their data.

Source: The Wire, REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

June 27

After reporting 100,000 cases on May 19, India adds 100,000 cases in 15, 10, 8 and 5 days respectively to bring the total number of cases to half a million.

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