Coronavirus Cases in India : ‘The epidemic is growing very rapidly’
The COVID-19 pandemic in India is part of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case of COVID-19 in India, which originated from China, was reported on 30 January 2020. As of 13 July 2020, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has confirmed a total of 878,254 cases, 553,470 recoveries (including 1 migration) and 23,174 deaths in the country. India currently has the largest number of confirmed cases in Asia, and has the third highest number of confirmed cases in the world after the United States and Brazil with the number of total confirmed cases breaching the 100,000 mark on 19 May and 200,000 on 3 June. India’s case fatality rate is relatively lower at 2.80%, against the global 4.7%, as of 6 July. Six cities account for around half of all reported cases in the country — Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Pune and Kolkata. As of 24 May 2020, Lakshadweep is the only region which has not reported a case. On 10 June, India’s recoveries exceeded active cases for the first time reducing 49% of total infections followed by recovery rate crossing 60% till early July. Although, active have continued to increase persistently.
On 22 March, India observed a 14-hour voluntary public curfew at the instance of the prime minister Narendra Modi. It was followed by mandatory lockdowns in COVID-19 hotspots and all major cities. Further, on 24 March, the Prime Minister ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days, affecting the entire 1.3 billion population of India. On 14 April, the PM extended the nationwide lockdown till 3 May which was followed by two-week extensions starting 3 and 17 May with substantial relaxations. From 1 June, the Government has started “unlocking” the country (barring “containment zones”) in three unlock phases.
The United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have praised India’s response to the pandemic as ‘Comprehensive and robust,’ terming the Lockdown restrictions as aggressive but vital for containing the spread and building necessary healthcare infrastructure. The Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT) noted the government’s swift and stringent actions, emergency policy making, emergency investment in healthcare, fiscal stimulus, investment in vaccine and drug R&D. It gave India a score of 100 for its strict response. Michael Ryan, chief executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies programme noted that India had tremendous capacity to deal with the outbreak owing to its vast experience in eradicating smallpox and polio. In June, India was ranked 56th of 200 countries in COVID 19 safety assessment report by Deep Knowledge Group. Though, other commentators have also raised concerns about the economic fallout arising as a result of the pandemic and preventive restrictions. The lockdown was justified by the government and other agencies for being preemptive to prevent India from entering a higher stage which could make handling very difficult and cause even more losses thereafter.