It has almost been a year since our lives turned upside down in the pandemic’s havoc. Hope you are doing well in this unparalleled timeline. While experts believe that we are close to the end of this unprecedented era, it really has been a rough ride. Nonetheless, nostalgia beats living in the present. So let us journey down this extremely torturous memory lane.
A year ago, ophthalmologist Li Wenliang was the first to share information about a SARS-type lung infection with colleagues in Wuhan, China. At the beginning of the second week of January 2020, Chinese authorities made the first public announcement that a new type of virus was rampant in the city of Wuhan. When the existence of the virus was announced, the first infection of a human by a vertebrate animal had apparently already occurred several weeks earlier.
Initially, Chinese authorities seemed to have tried to suppress any evidence. To this day, it’s not exactly clear when and where the virus jumped from animal to human hosts. Transmission from a bat to an intermediate host, perhaps a tanuki — otherwise known as an Asian raccoon dog — and then to humans is considered the likely origin of the pandemic that is still in full swing today.
There is evidence to suggest that the virus had already spread worldwide in late summer of 2019. It has been found in samples taken in Italy in September of that year, which is consistent with an analysis of SARS-CoV genomes by British researchers.
On January 21, Chinese Virologists published the genome structure, and three days later they released a detailed description of the virus. This enabled physicians and microbiologists worldwide to develop drugs and vaccines.
On 22nd January 2020, China locked down the city of Wuhan and its 11 million people, to control COVID-19. They announced the official death toll as 17 and over 500 people infected. In the meantime, researchers from Germany had established that the virus was prevalent in the throat and lungs. The greatest danger of infection is through aerosol transmission, besides coming into direct contact with an infected person or touching a contaminated surface (known as smear infections). The virus can spread particularly well through air-conditioning systems.
This led to temporary but effective control- a measure of lockdown adopted by various governments throughout the world. The closing of the entertainment industry, schools, colleges, trade fairs etc. followed later.
The largest chains of infection could be traced back to the so-called super-spreader events.
The use of face masks to cover one’s nose and mouth became (and continues to be) an effective measure of prevention. With sanitizers running out of stock in supermarkets, the world witnessed the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A virus initially thought to be no more dangerous than common cold began claiming lives at an alarming rate.
India and COVID-19
On January 27, 2020, a 20 yr old female was presented to the Emergency Department Hospital in Thrissur, Kerala with a one-day history of dry cough and sore throat. There was no history of fever, rhinitis or shortness of breath. She disclosed she had returned to Kerala from Wuhan city, China, on January 23, 2020. She was asymptomatic between January 23 and 26.
On the morning of 27th Jan, she felt a mild sore throat and dry cough. She did not give a history of contact with a person suspected or confirmed with COVID-19 infection. Nor did she visit the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. However, she gave a history of travel from Wuhan to Kunming by train. She noticed people with respiratory symptoms at the railway station. Finally, she received instructions from the Kerala State authorities as precautions.
On the same day, WHO declared the coronavirus a global emergency of international concern. Over 7500 cases were reported in 20 countries of the world.
India and COVID-19: A Timeline
March 11: The World Health Organization declares Covid-19 a pandemic, which means “an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, and most people do not have immunity against it”. Over 1,21,000 people infected and over 4,300 died globally. The US blocks visitors from Europe.
March 22: Upon a call by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a 14-hour voluntary lockdown called ‘Janata Curfew’ is being observed in India. Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposes lockdown in Britain.
March 25: A nationwide lockdown is imposed till April 14, with only essential services kept out of its purview. India reports 606 cases and 10 deaths so far. Tokyo Olympics are being postponed for a year until 2021.
March 26: On the second day of the lockdown, India witnesses caravans of migrant labourers walking hundreds of kilometres along highways to reach their native villages.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announces a Rs 1.7 lakh crore package under a new scheme called the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana (PMGKBY) to address the economic distress. The package includes food support to the “poorest of the poor”, income support to farmers and unorganised sector workers.
April 5: Upon PM Modi’s call, citizens light diyas, candles, torches and flashlights. The citizens unite to show solidarity with the frontline healthcare workers.
April 14: Prime Minister Modi extends the 21-day lockdown to May 3. Confirmed cases rise to 10,000. The Ministry of Home Affairs issues “National Directives” for COVID-19 management. Wearing a face cover becomes mandatory in work and public spaces.
May 12: PM Narendra Modi announces Rs 20 lakh crore Atmanirbhar package, says size is 10% of GDP, includes announcements made by RBI earlier.
May 19: Total Covid-19 cases in India cross 1 lakh.
May 25: Domestic flight services resume in a calibrated manner, with only 30% of regular schedules.
June 8: Phased reopening begins, Unlock 1.0 guidelines come into force as India records over 2,50,000 COVID-19 cases and 7200 deaths. Centre allows re-opening of malls, hotels, restaurants and places of worship.
June 12: India overtakes the UK to become 4th worst coronavirus-hit country, with over 3 lakh cases.
July 1: Unlock 2.0 guidelines come into force, with relaxations in night curfew, provision for more domestic flights and trains, and clearance for more than five people in a shop.
July 6: India overtakes Russia to become the third-worst coronavirus-hit country, with 6.97 lakh cases. The United States has more than 28 lakh cases, while Brazil has close to 16 lakh.
July 15: Phase-1 clinical trials of India’s first indigenous Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, developed by Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the National Institute of Virology and Indian Council of Medical Research, starts across the country. Zydus Cadila also starts human trials of its ZyCov-D vaccine.
July 17: International commercial flights resume as India establishes individual bilateral bubbles with France and the United States. India’s total Covid-19 cases cross 10 lakh. The death toll stands at 25,600.
August 1: Phase 3.0 of Unlock comes into force, with govt allowing gymnasiums and yoga centres to function, and revoking the night curfew order.
August 11: Russia becomes the first country to grant regulatory approval to a Covid-19 vaccine, dubbed “Sputnik V”, for civilian use, claims President Vladimir Putin. The development raises doubts among the global scientific community as approval comes before Phase III trials.
August 26: Serum Institute of India starts India trials of Covishield, the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine candidate, with two volunteers in Pune’s Bharati Vidyapeeth Medical College receiving the first shots.
August 29: Centre issues Unlock 4.0 guidelines, allows metro services to start from September 7, larger gatherings with 100 people allowed from September 21, senior students come to schools voluntarily.
August 30: India reports a worldwide record for daily new cases, with 78,761 infections. The tally exceeds the one-day increase of 77, 299 reported by the United States in mid-July. Covid-19 cases cross the 25-million mark globally.
August 31: With economic activity suspended because of lockdown, India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth contracts 23.9 per cent in the April-June quarter, data released by the National Statistical Office (NSO) Monday shows.
September 7: India overtakes Brazil to emerge as the country with the second-largest number of people infected with novel coronavirus, recording 41.13 lakh confirmed infections.
Metro services resume in a graded manner across the country as per the Union Home Ministry’s Unlock-4 guidelines. Commercial metro services had stopped on March 24.
September 19: The Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) approves country’s first Clustered Regularly Interspersed Short Palindromic (CRISPR) Covid-19 test for commercial launch. Jointly developed by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Tata Group, the test is given the name ‘Feluda’.
September 21: After remaining shut for the past six months, schools partially reopen in several states to enable students studying in Classes 9 to 12 to visit their institutions voluntarily for taking guidance from their teachers.
September 22: India reports over 1 lakh coronavirus recoveries in a single-day for the first time, improving the recovery rate to 80.86 per cent. Health Ministry data shows 1,01,468 Covid-19 patients recuperated.
September 30: Ministry of Home Affairs issues Unlock 5.0 guidelines, allows cinemas and multiplexes to open with 50 per cent capacity from October 15; states and Union Territories decide on whether to open schools; removes limits on outdoor gatherings while allowing indoor gatherings with 50 per cent capacity.
How can we forget Ludo, House party and the Mighty Dalgona coffee that helped us survive the quarantine? With bad-experimental haircuts and styles, weight lost and gained; we sincerely hope to see our friends, teachers, colleagues – our humans out of these screens. We seek the comfort of their familiar touch and smiles.
With the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccine drive, India hopes to witness a world free of coronavirus soon.