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India - COVID-19

Indias unfolding coronavirus crisis is at its most visceral in the overwhelmed graveyards and crematoriums as bright, glowing funeral pyres light up the night sky in its worst-hit cities. Outside crematoriums in cities like the capital New Delhi, which currently has the highest number of daily cases, ambulance after ambulance waits in line to cremate the dead. Delhi has been cremating so many bodies that authorities are getting requests to start cutting down trees in city parks for kindling as a record surge of COVID-19 collapses Indias tattered healthcare system. Even with a massive inoculation drive, it won't stop the virus from spreading in India. Given the low inoculation rate in India, the rate of vaccination won't catch up with the speed of virus transmission.

By July 2021 it was estimated that Indias excess deaths during the pandemic could be a staggering 10 times the official COVID-19 toll, likely making it modern Indias worst human tragedy, according to the most comprehensive research yet on the ravages of the virus in the South Asian country. Most experts believe Indias official toll of more than 414,000 dead is a vast undercount, but the government has dismissed those concerns as exaggerated and misleading. An independent, non-government report released 20 July 2021 estimated the number of deaths at between 3 to 4.7 million, from January 2020 to June 2021. The team said the official count likely missed deaths because of overcrowded hospitals and widespread failures in the countrys health system during a huge rise in cases earlier in 2021.

The new report estimates the number of excess deaths from the disease. This is generally defined as the difference between the number of observed deaths and the number of expected deaths during a specific period of time. The research was led by Arvind Subramanian, the Indian governments former chief economic adviser. Researchers from the Center for Global Development -- a Washington-based think tank -- and Harvard University also helped produce the report. True deaths are likely to be in the several millions not hundreds of thousands, the report said. The researchers said this makes the deaths arguably Indias worst human tragedy since Partition and independence.

In an article published 01 May 2021 in The Lancet, Anoo Bhuyan reported that health experts criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modis government for allowing mass gatherings, including at political rallies, and for slipping into complacency earlier this year in the fight against Covid-19. The article also highlighted the discrepancy between Indias vaccine production and its domestic supply, saying Despite manufacturing vaccines for other countries, India is facing a shortage of vaccines for its own programme. Some people who have received their first injection of the two vaccines in use in India (Covaxin and Covishield) have been unable to get their second dose as vaccination centres around the country are reporting an absence of replenishments. Initially India only included Russias Sputnik in it's vaccination drive. The other foreign vaccines, like Pfizer or Moderna have not been granted approval as these vaccines require a special Cold chain infrastructure for maintaining ultra low temperatures (-70c), and the companies have not yet submitted a concrete plan for the same.

The month of March 2021 was a period of hectic public gatherings, sanctioned and even encouraged by public officials. Five states held elections this month, and many politicians, including India's prime minister and leaders of several parties, conducted hundreds of massive political rallies around India. Now, the countrys hospitals are running out of oxygen, causing several tragedies where multiple people died from a supply shortage.

A novel variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus, dubbed B.1.617, was first found in India and then in other countries around the world. By late April 2021 the Indian variant has spread to other countries. Health authorities have detected variant B.1.617 in Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the US, Australia and Singapore. The Indian variant consists of two mutations of the spike protein of the virus. There is a risk that people who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection, or those who have been vaccinated, may not be as resilient against this new variant as they may be against other forms of the virus. The WHO categorizes the Indian variant as a "Variant of Interest." That means the variant is being monitored, but that it is, for the time being, not of major concern. The Indian variant has spread at such low levels over the past few months that makes it likely not to be as transmissible as B.1.1.7.

The United States will "immediately" make supplies of material to make vaccines, as well as therapeutics, tests, ventilators and protective equipment available to India, facing a Covid-19 surge, the White House said 25 April 2021. "The United States has identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine that will immediately be made available for India," a White House statement said. The message sent by the White House appeared to come out "too late" as the US government has been heavily criticized for being selfish and hypocritical by offering too little aid to India in the past few days. The Biden administration had only partially lifted export ban of raw materials for vaccine production, following growing pressure from vaccine producers.

Britain said that it was sending life-saving medical equipment to India, including ventilators and oxygen concentrators, as the country reels from record numbers of daily Covid-19 infections and deaths. "Vital medical equipment, including hundreds of oxygen concentrators and ventilators, is now on its way from the UK to India to support efforts to prevent the tragic loss of life from this terrible virus," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.

India's relatively low fatality rate doesn't tell the whole story and suspicions abound that there's substantial undercounting in several states. Suspected cases are not being added to the final count and deaths from the infection are being credited to underlying health conditions, point out observers. "There appears to be a wide discrepancy between official records of deaths attributed to COVID-19 and reports of cremations and burials that are many multiples of what might normally have been expected," Gautam Menon, a professor of physics and biology at Ashoka University, told DW 26 April 2021. "These discrepancies suggest that the true numbers are being suppressed," the health expert said. "The actual number of deaths from COVID-19 may be 5 to 10 times the official numbers. Together with under-reporting of cases and the large test positivity ratios we are seeing across the country, the true scale of the pandemic may be far worse than the numbers would suggest," he added.

In smaller towns which have been reporting a high number of COVID deaths, mass cremations have been taking place in open spaces because of a dearth of crematorium space and deaths far exceeding official figures. Although many countries have struggled to record the precise number of COVID deaths, in India, the problem has been compounded by the lack of an effective death registration system in many parts of the nation. Most deaths in the country are not assigned a cause by a trained medical professional, making data on case fatality ratio unreliable.

The number of new coronavirus infections continued to rise sharply in India. On 25 April 2021 country recorded the world's highest daily tally of 346,786 new cases among its total population of 1.38 billion people. Overall, nearly 190,000 people have died from COVID in the country, while more than 16.6 million have been infected. The new outbreak in India is so severe that hospitals are running out of oxygen and beds, and many people who have been taken ill are being turned away.

This surge is likely to be because of crowded events organised in the run-up to elections President Modi himself hit the campaign trail addressing election rallies in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on March 30 as the upturn of cases began. Large groups and social gatherings during religious festivals also played a part. Despite the second wave starting as early as February 2021, the government approved the massive Kumbh Mela religious gathering, where millions of Hindu celebrants gathered every day without masks or social distancing.

Modis health minister, Harsh Vardhan, has whiled away the last few months endorsing quack cures for COVID, such as cow urine, advanced by Hindu religious leaders, and Modi's close ally, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced that yoga could vanquish the virus.

Indias much-vaunted vaccination program suffered serious strains. Well into March 2021, India continued exporting (for both profit and for geopolitical prestige) more vaccine doses than it was administering at home. Modi claimed the exports proved that India had emerged from the pandemic as a world leader and source of hope for humanity. Instead of seeing public funds flow to vaccine manufacturers upfront to ensure they established their capacities to make vaccine, the Modi government bulldozed them to cut costs from the start, meaning less vaccines was produced.

Hospitals run by the central government get vaccines from the Serum Institute of India about 90 percent of the vaccines administered at 150 rupees ($2) per dose. But the financially weaker state governments must pay 400 rupees ($5.34) per dose for hospitals they manage. This greatly far exceeds the price of the same vaccine in the UK, the USa and Europe.

The number of coronavirus cases in India the world's second-worst hit country in terms of figures topped 8 million on 29 October 2020 as the country grappled with the prospect of a difficult winter. Authorities were getting ready for a surge as Diwali the country's most important religious festival, which this year takes place on November 14 approached. Experts said crowds gathering for the event could exacerbate the coronavirus crisis. The health care system "will get really stressed" if the surge continues, Randeep Guleria, director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, told the Times of India newspaper. The winter pollution crisis, which hits Delhi each year, could also make things worse.

India's death toll from the coronavirus pandemic topped 100,000 on 05 October 2020. The country has become the third to pass that grim milestone, following the United States and Brazil. India confirmed 6.6 million infections, with over 74,000 new cases recorded on 05 October. The country was experiencing the highest number of daily new cases in the world. The government is seeking up to 500 million coronavirus vaccine doses and aims to immunize 250 million people by July. Indian health minister Harsh Vardhan said, "Our government is working around the clock to ensure that there is a fair and equitable distribution of vaccines once they are ready." Three vaccines are in different phases of testing in the country.

Over 5 million people had been infected with coronavirus in India by 16 September 2020. India reported 90,123 more cases of coronavirus, bringing total infections in the country to over 5 million, or 0.35% of India's 1.4 billion inhabitants. A total of 82,066 people in India had died from the virus. Experts feared the death toll in India will also spike, as the country relaxes lockdown restrictions in all but high-risk areas. Most fatalities have been concentrated in large metropolitan areas.

India overtook Brazil on 07 September 2020 as the country with the second highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, even as key metro train lines re-opened as part of efforts to boost the South Asian nation's battered economy. India had emerged as the new global pandemic hotspot, although cases continue to soar across the globe with reported infections worldwide nearing 27 million and deaths surpassing 880,000. India, home to some of the world's most densely populated cities, had been reporting the highest single-day rises in the world and on 07 September 2020 it confirmed a new record of nearly 91,000 new cases [more than the entire number reported in Wuhan]. India's cases had risen above 4.2 million, surpassing Brazil's total and making it the second-highest tally behind the United States' 6.25 million.

India recorded nearly 79,000 cases in a day on 30 August 2020 the world's highest single-day rise. The surge raised the country's tally to over 3.5 million and came as the government announced that the New Delhi's subway can reopen on September 7. One of the reasons for the spike is testing: India now conducts nearly 1 million tests every day, compared with just 200,000 two months ago.

With 918 confirmed coronavirus cases and 20 deaths, by 28 March 2020 India's toll was lower than other countries afflicted by the pandemic, but experts say many infections have not been detected due to a lack of testing. The South Asian nation of some 1.3 billion people reported its first coronavirus case on January 30 but in recent weeks the number of infections climbed rapidly.

India already put in place a comprehensive response system at its borders much before WHO declared it as a public health emergency of international concern (30th January) Screening of incoming air passengers followed by suspension of visas and and ban on international flights was done much ahead of any other country. Thermal screening of incoming international passengers from China and Hong Kong was started on 18th January, much before the first case of Coronavirus was detected in India on 30th January, 2020. A look at the global scenario would highlight that Italy and Spain, which are devastated by COVID-19, had started screening of travellers 25 days and 39 days respectively after first reported case.

Central Government took a number of proactive measures, such as travel restrictions, adding more countries and airports for screening, suspension of visas and self quarantine measures to effectively contain, prevent and manage the spread of the disease. A chronology of the decisions taken so far is as follows:

  • 17th jan- Advisory issued to avoid travel to china
  • 18th Jan - thermal screening of passengers from China and Hong Kong
  • 30th Jan strong advisory issued to avoid travel to China.
  • 3rd Feb - E- visa facility suspended for Chinese citizens.
  • 22nd Feb -Advisory issued to avoid travel to Singapore; Universal screening for flights from Kathmandu, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia.
  • 26th Feb - Advisory issued to avoid travel to Iran, Italy and Republic of Korea. Passengers coming from these countries to be screened , and may be quarantined based on screening and risk assessment.
  • 3rd March: Suspension of all visas for Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan and China; Compulsory health screening for passengers arriving directly or indirectly from China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan.
  • 4th March: Universal screening of all International Flights. Quarantine or isolation at home or sent to hospital based on screening and risk profile
  • 5th March: Passengers from Italy or Republic of Korea need to get medical certificate before entry
  • 10th March, Home isolation: incoming international passengers should self-monitor health and follow govt. Dos and Donts: passengers with travel history to China, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, Japan, Italy, Thailand, Singapore, Iran, Malaysia, France, Spain and Germany to undergo home quarantine for a period of 14 days from the date of their arrival
  • 11th March: Compulsory Quarantine- Incoming travellers (including Indians) arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after 15th February, 2020 shall be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.

Screening of passengers took place at 30 airports, 12 major and 65 minor pots and at land borders. Over 36 lakh passengers have been screened. Armed Forces had been working relentlessly to provide medical and logistics support to civil authorities in the countrys fight against COVID-19 pandemic. The Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) has deployed all resources at its disposal to aid the civilian authorities, shouldering responsibility in the time of extraordinary crisis.

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi called 24 March 2020 for a complete lockdown of the entire nation for the next 21 days beginning at midnight in an effort to contain the COVID-19 Pandemic. In a special televised address to the Nation the Prime Minister said that even those nations with the best of the medical facilities could not contain the virus and that the social distancing is the only option to mitigate it. All of you are also witnessing how the most advanced countries of the world have been rendered absolutely helpless by this pandemic. It is not that these countries are not putting in adequate efforts or they lack resources. The Coronavirus is spreading at such a rapid pace that despite all the preparations and efforts, these countries are finding it hard to manage the crisis. He added that this will be a few levels more than Janata-Curfew, and also stricter.

The Prime Minister said the Central and State Governments countrywide are working swiftly to ensure that citizens do not face much inconvenience in their daily life. He said that provisions have been made to ensure supplies of all essential items continue smoothly. The Guidelines related to the nationwide lockdown were issued vide Order No.40-3/2020-DM-I(A) dated 24th & 25th March, 2020 in exercise of the powers conferred under Section 10(2)(I) of the Disaster Management Act with the Chairperson, National Executive Committee. Union Ministry for Home Affairs (MHA) issued Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) for maintaining supply of essential goods, in order to relieve hardships faced by people during 21-day nationwide lockdown to fight the Coronavirus outbreak.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced 28 March 2020 the constitution of the PM's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM-CARES) fund today. This will be a dedicated national fund with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Prime Minister is the Chairman of this trust and its Members include Defence Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister. Citizens and organisations can go to the website and donate to PM CARES Fund. This fund will enable micro-donations allowing a large number of people will be able to contribute with smallest of denominations.

Government has granted relaxation in the nationwide lockdown for activities related to agriculture-farming and allied activities with a view to address problems being faced by the farming community. This will also ensure uninterrupted harvesting of crops. Keeping in view the demands of farmers and concerned organisations and at the directions of the Prime Minister, the Union Government urgently considered and sympathetically examined the issue, following which a practical solution was arrived at in the interest of farmers and related communities.

The lockdown effectively put millions of Indians living off daily earnings out of work. Construction projects, taxi services, housekeeping and other informal sector employment came to a sudden halt. Many migrant workers felt they have no choice but to walk home. They are walking along highways, along train tracks with no access to food, no access to basic sanitation. Delhi's homeless shelters were overflowing with people and the state government has decided to convert public schools into shelters.

As per the directions of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, Government committed all support to Migrant Workers during lockdown period, said Union Home Minister, Shri Amit Shah here today while reviewing the country's preparedness to contain the spread of COVID-19. With the intent of Modi Government to provide all possible support to migrant workers, the Union Home Secretary has again written to States requesting them to immediately set up Relief Camps for migrant workers/pilgrims etc who are returning to their domicile states or trying to do so during this lockdown period.

As Indian states impose lockdowns to deal with increasing COVID-19 cases, people evading quarantine orders are posing a major hurdle in containing the infection rate. By the end of March 2020 reports were piling up of unsanitary state-run quarantine facilities in India with multiple people forced to share rooms and dormitories. This sparked concerns that the conditions could actually speed up the spread of the virus. The shabby conditions also made people want to avoid quarantine. There are concerns this will endanger more lives and lead to panic. Apart from hygiene, there was general fear and distrust among people of being put in government quarantine centers and in isolation,

Indians generally do not trust public health care, which is under-resourced and overstretched. Those who can afford it, prefer private hospitals. India spends just 3.6% of its GDP on public health, lower than some of its smaller neighbors such as Nepal. India only has eight doctors per 10,000 people compared to 41 in Italy and 71 in South Korea. The public health care system in India, with a few exceptions in some states, is absolutely abysmal.

Modi, publicly apologized on 29 March 2020 for a three-week nation lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, but said he had "no choice." Modi said in his monthly radio broadcast "I apologize for taking these harsh steps that have caused difficulties in your lives, especially the poor people ... I know some of you will be angry with me. But these tough measures were needed to win this battle."

The southern state of Kerala could become the first state in India to flatten the COVID-19 curve. It has bucked the national trend by delaying the doubling time of coronavirus cases meaning the number of days it takes for the cases to double to 72.2 days, against a national average of 7.5-8 days. "As of today, we have 437 cases and three deaths. Early tracking, screening, home quarantine, strict isolation and public participation are the core reasons for Kerala's success. Now, the test will be when the lockdown restrictions are lifted from May 3," Dr B Iqbal, chairman of the Kerala state expert committee on coronavirus, told DW on 23 April 2020.

The government allowed resumption of manufacturing and farming activities in rural areas as millions of daily wage-earners were left without work. Shops being allowed to open is a huge relief to the millions of Indians in non-hotspot zones who own small, stand-alone shops.

India allowed a limited reopening of shops in neighborhoods and residential areas, a month after the nation went into lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, officials said. The federal home ministry announced on 24 April 2020 that retail shops could start operations from Saturday with a 50-percent reduction in staff, and enforcing appropriate physical distancing, wearing of masks and gloves during work. The sale of liquor and other non-essential items will continue to be prohibited, and no shops in large market places, multi-brand and single-brand malls will be allowed to open for business till May 3, when the nationwide lockdown is due to end.

India COVID-19

India became the country with the third-highest coronavirus caseload in the world on 06 July 2020, with authorities forced to convert hotels, wedding halls, a spiritual centre and even railway coaches to provide care for coronavirus patients. The Indian government had gradually lifted virus restrictions to help the battered economy, and the number of cases continued to climb, with 24,000 reported in 24 hours to take the total to nearly 700,000, overtaking Russia to become the third-hardest-hit nation. India's tally is not expected to peak for several more weeks and experts predict the one million figure will be passed later in July. Critics allege India is conducting very few tests, leaving the true scale of the pandemic unknown. The country has registered 19,963 deaths from the virus, a much lower number than many other badly hit countries.

A letter leaked on Twitter on 03 July 2020 suggested the first vaccines could be rolled out by 15 August, which would leave far too little time for proper testing, critics said. The Indian Academy of Sciences called the timeline unreasonable and without precedent. Six Indian companies are developing vaccines against COVID-19. The Indian government gave two of them, Bharat Biotech and Zydus Cadila, permission to start phase I and II human clinical trials of their most advanced vaccines, named covaxin and ZyCov-D respectively.

Coronavirus infections in India passed 1.5 million and deaths neared 35,000 by the end of July 2020, but test results in the city of Mumbai cast further doubt on official data in the world's second-most populous nation. Even as the number of cases soar and more areas imposed lockdowns, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said this week India was in a "better position that other countries" and winning international praise. A study released on 28 July 2020 that tested for coronavirus antibodies reported that some 57 percent of people in Mumbai's densely-populated slums have had the infection - far more than what official data suggested. There are, however, also doubts about the accuracy of such tests, since other coronaviruses - not just the novel coronavirus that is responsible for COVID-19 - may also produce antibodies that could give a false-positive result.

With the fastest COVID-19 growth in the world, in August 2020 India raced past 2 million cases, as public health experts warn that the pandemic in the worlds second most populous country will not slow anytime soon. The grim milestone came as tens of thousands of community health workers went on a two-day strike, demanding better pay and saying they were not properly equipped to handle the highly contagious coronavirus. This number was coming. If you are growing at four percent daily, it will jump from one million to two million in three weeks, points out virologist Shahid Jameel said 07 August 2020. It is actually Indias rate of increase that is worrying. Only two other countries have crossed the two million mark the United States and Brazil.

The number of coronavirus infections in India topped 3 million 23 August 2020. The country had been reporting nearly 70,000 new cases a day. The Indian government says it confirmed about 69,000 new infections, bringing the national total to 3,044,000. India has become the third country to have more than 3 million cases after the United States and Brazil. Johns Hopkins University says India has the world's highest daily tally of infections, surpassing the US. The number of confirmed coronavirus deaths in India has reached 56,000. The Indian government has been easing the restrictions on economic activities and travel. The capital New Delhi has been the main focus of the outbreak. But regional cities, especially in southern states, are now reporting growing numbers of cases.

By the end of 2020 India had the second-highest caseload in the world, after the US, with 10.2 million infections recorded since the beginning of the pandemic although new daily cases had come down from a peak of over 90,000 in September, and COVID-19 deaths were lower than in other badly affected countries.

On 03 January 2021 Drugs Control Authority formally approved urgent-use authorization for the Oxford University-AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine. The locally developed vaccine COVAXIN produced by Bharat Biotech was also approved for emergency use. The Covishield vaccine does not require ultra-cold storage like the BioNTech-Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, and thus is a feasible option for many developing nations with only access to regular refrigeration storage. The government plans to vaccinate 300 million people in its first phase of the inoculation drive, including healthcare and front-line workers, police, military and people over age 50 with comorbidities.

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Page last modified: 13-09-2021 14:51:04 ZULU