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India’s Covid calendar — a month-by-month look at how pandemic progressed in 2020

From nationwide lockdown, coronavirus hotspots and vaccine race — ThePrint looks back at India's journey against the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

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New Delhi: India recorded its first case of Covid-19 in January and since then the country has witnessed several ups and downs in its fight against the pandemic. From the ‘janata curfew’, healthcare workers scrambling to contain infections across the country to the present vaccine race — the year 2020 was defined by the novel coronavirus.

With this year coming to an end, ThePrint gives a month-by-month account tracking key moments in India’s fight against Covid-19.

January 

India’s first Covid case was detected in Kerala’s Thrissur on 30 January. On the next day, the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a ‘global emergency of international concern’.

On 31 January, the government decided to airlift its citizens from China’s Wuhan, where the outbreak started. An Air India aircraft reached Wuhan at 8 pm and left with 324 passengers at 4 am on 1 February. “We got saved,” one of the Indians on the flight had told ThePrint following her arrival.

February

The Kerala government, on 3 February, declared the coronavirus outbreak as a ‘state calamity’ after three students tested positive for the infection.

With most countries across the world recording new infections each passing day, on 11 February, the WHO announced an official name for the disease — ‘Covid-19’. The new coronavirus was named SARS-CoV-2.

By 20 February, India’s first Covid patient had recovered from the virus.

March 

The number of cases in India started mushrooming in March. Two more cases were reported on 2 March — a 45-year-old man in Delhi and 24-year-old engineer, both with a travel history. By the end of the month, on 28 March, the number of cases crossed 1,000.

A cluster involving 23 cases also began emerging in Jaipur after an Italian tourist tested positive. This was possibly the first Covid cluster to have been reported in the country.

On 11 March, the World Health Organization designated Covid-19 as a pandemic. A day later, India reported its first fatality — a 76-year-old man from Karnataka.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a 14-hour voluntary ‘janata curfew‘ on 22 March, which was followed by the nationwide lockdown, two days later.

On 30 March, Nizamuddin Markaz, the Tablighi Jamaat headquarters, emerged as a Covid-19 hotspot — the most controversial one in the country yet.

April 

State governments across the country set up 21,000 camps that could house 6,60,000 migrants who were left stranded due to the unprecedented lockdown. The country saw a massive exodus of migrant workers who began travelling back home to their villages on foot after work dried up in cities.

Amid the 21-day lockdown imposed in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi requested  citizens to turn off their lights for 9 minutes at 9 pm on 5 April. Modi urged Indians to light a candle or diya to mark the country’s fight against the pandemic.

On 6 April, the number of coronavirus cases crossed 4,000 in India while deaths zoomed past 100. A few days later, PM Modi extended the 21-day lockdown till 3 May in an effort to curb the spread.

Through April, Nizamuddin Markaz emerged as the biggest coronavirus hotspot in India. On 18 April, the health ministry revealed that 29.8 per cent of total cases recorded in the country could be traced back to Jamaat cluster.

By 23 April, Asia’s biggest slum in Mumbai, Dharavi, had recorded 214 cases of Covid-19, prompting fears of a potential hotspot.

In a study, published on 28 April, scientists from the Indian Council of Medical Research identified the SARS-CoV-2 sequences prevalent in the country. They found two introductions, one was detected from Wuhan and the other from Europe.

May 

The home ministry extended the lockdown twice this month — the first time from 4 May to 17 May and the second from 18 May to 31 May. Meanwhile, Shramik Special Trains were started for stranded migrant workers on 1 May. Liquor shops also reopened across the country on 5 May. This led to widespread chaos as hoards of people began thronging liquor shops.

On 12 May, PM Modi announced a Rs 20 lakh crore Atmanirbhar package.

By 19 May, the number of cases crossed the one lakh-mark. Domestic flight services resumed, functioning at 30 per cent capacity, on 25 May.

June 

On 4 June, AstraZeneca and Serum Institute of India signed a licensing agreement to supply one billion doses of the Oxford University vaccine candidate to low-income countries, including India.

The month witnessed the ‘unlock’ phase of all coronavirus-induced restrictions in India. On 8 June, Unlock 1.0 allowed malls, hotels, restaurants and places of worship to reopen.

By 11 June, India surpassed the UK to become the country with the fourth-highest cases of Covid-19.

According to data by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, unemployment rates in June fell to pre-lockdown levels of 8.5 per cent from the from the peak rate of 23.5 per cent in April and May during the lockdown.

In this month, Mumbai also emerged as the worst-hit city by Covid-19. It accounted for 57 per cent of cases recorded in Maharashtra in June.

By 27 June, the total number of cases in India had crossed 5 lakh and deaths crossed 15,000. The country’s fatality rate stood at 3 per cent and recovery rate stood at 60 per cent.

On 29 June, Bharat Biotech announced that it had successfully developed ‘Covaxin’, India’s first indigenous vaccine, in collaboration with ICMR and National Institute of Virology in Pune.

July 

On 1 July, Unlock 2.0 came into force with more domestic flights and trains resuming services and relaxation in night curfew.

India also became the third worst Covid-hit country with cases crossing the 6 lakh-mark. Clinical trials of Covaxin began on 15 July.

International flights also resumed this month after ‘bilateral air bubbles’ were established with France and the US.

August 

By August, India was experiencing its third phase of ‘unlock’. Gyms and yoga centres were allowed to reopen and night curfew was revoked.

The Indian Medical Association, on 8 August, demanded that Prime Minister Modi direct attention to the 196 doctors who had succumbed to coronavirus.

Indian drug firm Zydus Cadilla, on 12 August, revealed that Phase 1 clinical trial of its vaccine candidate had been completed.

On 21 August, the Indian Council of Medical Research reported that more than one million diagnostic tests for Covid-19 had been collected. After China and the US, India had conducted the third-highest Covid-19 tests in the world.

The Serum Institute of India also announced its clinical trials for ‘Covishield’ on 26 August.

However, bad news continued on the economic front. Data released by the National Statistical Office on 31 August showed that India’s GDP growth had contracted 23.9 per cent in the April-June quarter.

September 

India became the second worst affected country after the US in September. The ‘Unlock 4’ guidelines took effect and metro services resumed across the country after six months.

On 14 September, the Monsoon Session of the Parliament kicked off with social distancing measures. However, 29 MPs had tested positive in the run up to the session.

The session was cut short by 18 days because of the rise in Covid cases among the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members making it the shortest session in 20 years.

On 16 September, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories signed an agreement with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) to conduct clinical trials of the Sputnik V vaccine in India. Schools were also partially reopened in several states on 21 September.

India also witnessed its peak wherein the country recorded around 10.17 lakh active cases with more than 90,000 infections being recorded each day.

October 

On 5 October, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan announced the central government was working on a plan to inoculate 20-25 crore people by July 2021.

Even though the world was witnessing a sharp rise in coronavirus infections and a potential risk of an emerging second wave, cases declined in India in October.

The central government also wrote to states and UTs to start creating a database of healthcare workers for Covid-19 immunisation drive.

In a letter dated 26 October, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan asked states and UTs to put in place a three-tier system that would oversee the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines.

India held its first major state election in October for the first since the pandemic was announced, in Bihar. Voting began on 28 October and the state recorded 57.05 per cent turnout — marginally higher than 2015.

November 

On 9 November, Pfizer and BioNtech announced that its vaccine candidate was more than 90 per cent effectve against Covid-19, according to results of Phase 3 trials.

Delhi witnessed its third Covid wave and the positivity rate in the national capital rose to over 15 per cent. The city also struggled with a shortage of ICU beds as hospitalisations increased, forcing the central government to intervene. Home Minister Amit Shah and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal came up with a 12-point plan on 15 November to tackle the crisis.

By 17 November, India’s active cases reduced to 4.94 lakh, from 10.17 lakh in September. This is because daily new cases were lower than the daily recoveries.

The central government, on 23 November, asked states and UTs to strengthen mechanism for reporting side-effects of Covid vaccines anticipating the immunisation drive would begin soon.

Alleging serious side-effects, a vaccine trial participant sought Rs 5 crore from Serum Institute on 28 November. However, the regulator rejected the participant’s claim, saying the illness was unrelated to the vaccine.

December

Massive protests by farmers against the central government’s farm laws triggered concerns about a potential coronavirus outbreak. The protest site hosts a large gathering of farmers, most of them are above 60, and don’t wear masks.

With Pfizer, Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech applying for emergency use authorisation, India announced vaccine rollout plans and priority groups this month.

A new and more infectious Covid-19 variant was detected in the UK and as a result India banned flights from the country to curb the spread, on 21 December.

On 24 December, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that 51 lakh people will be vaccinated in the first phase in the national capital.

Several states and UTs imposed night curfews in light of New Year and Christmas celebrations.

On 29 December, the Union health ministry said six passengers who recently returned to India from the UK have tested positive for the new coronavirus variant.


Also read: ICMR’s chequered role in Covid pandemic — from 15 August vaccine deadline to plasma flip-flop


 

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