6 Months On, A Recap Of How the Coronavirus Pandemic Unfolded

New Delhi: The year 2020 started with China raising an alarm about an unknown contagious disease being caused by a new strain of Coronavirus. The earlier variants of this virus were responsible for outbreaks like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002-2003 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012. By the end of January, the Emergency Committee of the World Health Organisation declared the Novel Coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and said,

The Committee believes that it is still possible to interrupt virus spread, provided that countries put in place strong measures to detect disease early, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts, and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk. It is important to note that as the situation continues to evolve, so will the strategic goals and measures to prevent and reduce the spread of the infection.

Also Read: 6 Months On, What Do We Know About The Coronavirus Pandemic

This declaration came on January 30, that time there were 7,711 confirmed cases in China and 170 people had died. Outside of China, there were 83 cases in 18 countries and there had been no deaths. Nearly six months down the line, over 10 million people around the world are infected with the virus, and more than 500,000 people have died globally as on July 3.

As the world continues to fight the coronavirus, here’s a timeline on how the pandemic unfolded:

From Where It All Started: The Month Of December And January 

6 Months On, A Recap Of How the Coronavirus Pandemic Unfolded
China’s Wuhan city is believed to be the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak as the cases of the virus started to appear from this very area at that time

In December 2019, Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, in China’s Hubei Province.

On December 31, 2019, the WHO China Country Office was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown etiology (unknown cause) detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China as per the World Health Organization. By January 3, 2020, a total of 44 patients with pneumonia of unknown etiology were reported to WHO by the national authorities in China. At that time, the virus was unknown and there was no evidence that the virus was readily spread by humans.

On January 1, 2020, China shut down its city’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which is believed to be the epicentre of the outbreak as the cases of the virus started to appear from this very area at that time. On January 5, Chinese officials ruled out the possibility that this was a recurrence of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus – an illness that originated in China and killed more than 770 people worldwide in 2002-2003.

On January 7, officials from China announced they had identified a new virus, and the novel virus was named 2019-nCoV. It was identified as belonging to the coronavirus family, which includes SARS and the common cold.

By January 11, 2020, China reported its first known death from an illness caused by the novel virus which the world now learnt to be a coronavirus. One day later, on January 12, China publicly shared the genetic sequence of coronavirus with World Health Organization. And by January 13 the virus started to spread outside China when the first case outside mainland China was confirmed by officials in Thailand. Over the following days, authorities in the US, Nepal, France, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan started to confirm cases.

As per the WHO’s first situation report, the first few confirmed cases outside mainland China occurred in Japan, South Korea and Thailand.

By mid-January, the situation in China started to worsen when the third death was reported and more than 200 infections, with cases, also being reported outside Hubei province including in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. By January 23, the cities of Wuhan, Xiantao and Chibi in Hubei province were placed under effective quarantine as air and rail departures were suspended. And by the end of the week, more areas were placed under lockdown affecting a total of 56 million people.

Also Read: Should People Wear Mask While Exercising? Can Shoes Spread COVID-19 Virus? Here Are Some New Coronavirus Mythbusters From WHO

Coronavirus Comes To India

On January 30, WHO termed the virus as an emerging public health emergency, the same day, the first case of coronavirus was reported in India from Kerala’s Thrissur district after a student who had returned home for a vacation from Wuhan University in China, tested positive. By February 4, Kerala declared coronavirus a state calamity after a third case tested positive.

Also Read: Kerala Becomes A ‘Model State’ In The Fight Against Coronavirus: State Health Minister KK Shailaja Explains How

The Novel Virus Got Identified With A Name

On February 11, the WHO proposed an official name for the disease the novel coronavirus as COVID-19, an acronym that stands for coronavirus disease 2019.

By mid-February, Iran emerged as a second focus point for coronavirus. On February 19, Iran announced its first two coronavirus cases and less than a week later, the country said it had 61 coronavirus cases and 12 deaths, more than any other country at the time.

Meanwhile, in late February, Europe faced its first major outbreak as the number of reported cases in Italy grew from fewer than five to more than 150 within a span of a few days. Apart from Italy, France also reported its first death due to coronavirus. By the end of February, Italy became the second hard-hit nation due to COVID-19 outbreak. By February 27 France also started to report a spike in the number of cases. According to data by Johns Hopkins University, the country reported 57 cases, more than tripling the number of cases in two days. By February 28, Italy had 800 people infected with coronavirus and remained an area of concern. Germany had nearly 60 cases by late February. Both England and Switzerland reported additional cases.

March: When Coronavirus Cases Saw A Sudden Spike In India And Restrictions Came Into Force 

Early March, India started to see a steady rise in the number of coronavirus cases. According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India reported total 31 cases by March 6.

6 Months On, A Recap Of How the Coronavirus Pandemic Unfolded
A graph showing a surge in coronavirus cases from the month of March in India. Data as of June 29

On March 11, according to WHO, when the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China had increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled with more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 deaths, WHO declared coronavirus a pandemic. This is the first outbreak to be declared as a pandemic since 2009 H1N1.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that WHO is deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of the inaction of countries. He also added that Pandemic is not a word to be used lightly or carelessly. If misused, it can cause unreasonable fear or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.

As the world struggled to contain the spread of coronavirus, countries started to implement lockdowns, where restrictions were placed on the movement of people and their congregation with schools, colleges, offices, malls and most other business establishments remain shut.

In India, Kerala was the first state, to ban all the public gatherings and suspend classes in all schools, colleges and exams for classes up to 7th standard on March 10.

First COVID-19 Death In India 

In India, Karnataka reported first death due to COVID-19 in March

On March 12, the Health officials in Karnataka reported the country’s first COVID-19 death of a 76-year-old man. A week after this, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa also announced all educational institutions, malls, cinema halls and pubs to be shut for a week across the state. He also issued prohibitory orders on public events.

By March 13, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Manipur governments also closed all schools and colleges till March 31. On March 14 and March 17, India reported its second and third death due to COVID-19 in the national capital and in Maharashtra. The same week as India’s cases continues to grow Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a one-day “Janta Curfew” on March 22 (Sunday) and urged millions of people to stay at home and practice social distancing so that the chain of the virus is broken. The March 22 curfew was also a pre-cursor for a more stringent and largest lockdown in the world.

March 25: India Shuts Down

6 Months On, A Recap Of How the Coronavirus Pandemic Unfolded
The nationwide lockdown was announced by PM Modi on March 24

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on March 22, the total number of COVID-19 cases in India stood at 360. The nationwide lockdown announced by PM Modi on March 24, which was initially meant to be for 21-days in a bid to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. PM Modi asserted that social distancing is the only way to defeat the enemy and win the war against coronavirus and that’s why India needed this lockdown.

The lockdown suspended all transport services – road, rail and air for 21-days, along with a closure of malls, schools, colleges, malls and other activities. It put a full stop to routine day-to-day life. In this period, only essential services were allowed to function which included services like grocery stores, medical services and pharmacies.

By March 29, India crossed the first worrisome mark in its fight against coronavirus when the positive cases rose to more than 1,000 in the country.  While this was still far less than other European countries like Italy, Spain in Europe which remained the epicentre of the pandemic, with Italy reporting 4,825 fatalities amid 53,578 cases, Spain recording 838 new coronavirus deaths over the previous 24 hours on March 29, marking the country’s highest daily jump in fatalities. At that time, Spain was second only to Italy where the death toll shot past 10,000 with 889 new deaths.

Also Read: Coronavirus Outbreak Explained: Why Is A Lockdown Important?

April – The Month With New Challenges 

By the first week of April, the COVID-19 death toll in India touched 100. On April 14, in the wake of the growing number of cases, the central government announced an extension of lockdown till May 3.

One day after the extension of the lockdown was announced, centre divided India’s districts into three categories—hotspot districts which report a large number of positive cases, non-hotspot districts which record a few coronavirus cases and green zones which have not reported fresh cases for some time. 170 districts out of 700 districts were tagged as hotspots. Barring the hotspot areas, the government also announced a series of relaxations, which kick-started from April 20 in its announcement for lockdown 2.0. These included the resumption of certain industries, services and agriculture-related activities to restart economic activity after the nationwide lockdown while ensuring strict social distancing and sanitisation norms.

By mid-April, the country crossed the 10,000 (10,824) mark of active cases and fatalities due to COVID-19 touched 420, as per data by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Also Read: The Decision To Lockdown India Was Taken Early And It Was Smart But Testing Needs To Scale Up: Expert On Country’s Fight Against Coronavirus

May – India Enters In Top 10 Countries List With Most Number Of Coronavirus Cases In The World 

As cases began to surge the end of the second lockdown phase on May 3 saw yet another extension till May 17. On May 7, India crossed the 50,000 mark of coronavirus cases, the last 10,000 patients were detected over a period of three days. Country’s medical experts said the number of cases is yet to peak in the country and the coming weeks could be worse.

One day before lockdown 3.0 was to end, on May 16, a number of coronavirus cases in India surpassed China’s as India reported 85,710 COVID-19 cases. According to the health ministry, the worst-hit states included Maharashtra with 29,100 cases, Tamil Nadu 10,108, Gujarat 9,932 and Delhi 8,895.

The rise in coronavirus cases continued unabated as the fourth phase of the lockdown was announced on May 17. Lockdown 4.0 was to last till May 31. However, this phase of the lockdown saw a lot of relaxations such as the Centre allowed buses and other vehicles to ply. Workplaces and shops could resume operations with restrictions like – staggering of work hours, provision for thermal scanning, hand wash and sanitizers and rules of social distancing to be applicable in common areas.

The relaxation meant that more and more cases were being added on a daily basis and it took the country just 11 days to double the number of positive cases from 50,000 on May 7 to one lakh coronavirus positive cases on May 18.

Despite the rise in numbers, the phased relaxation of the lockdown continued and domestic flights resumed operations on May 25, with a number of guidelines to adapt to the new situation posed by the pandemic. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases globally crossed 5.5 million mark by May 26.

Meanwhile, outside India, on May 27, the United States became the first country to reach a six-figure death toll, as the number of people killed from the coronavirus surpassed 100,000. The World Health Organization declared South America is “a new epicentre” of the coronavirus pandemic as well.

Also Read: NITI Aayog Launches Behaviour Change Campaign ‘Navigating The New Normal’ In Light Of COVID-19

India Becomes The Fourth Worse-Hit Country With Coronavirus Infections

India’s first COVID-19 case was detected in Kerala on January 30, while the tally took 110 days to reach the one lakh mark on May 18, however, it took just 15 days for the next one lakh cases to be added for India to cross 2 lakh coronavirus cases on June 2. Whereas, the number of cases doubled to cross 4 lakh in 18 days on June 21.

Also Read: Mortality Rate Remains Low Amid Rising COVID-19 Cases In Country: AIIMS Director

At present, as of July 3, India is the fourth worst-hit nation after US (27,39,230), Brazil (14,96,858) and Russia (6,60,231) in terms of COVID-19 cases. With over 6 lakh COVID-19 cases, India may surpass Russia’s tally in the coming few days. According to the data by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 1 lakh COVID-19 cases in India got added in just 5 days.

According to the global data compiled by Johns Hopkins University,  as of June 10, India is ranked 12th for the number of deaths, while it is at the 9th place for recoveries.

The only silver lining currently is that as of June 10, India has had more recoveries than its active coronavirus cases, according to the
health ministry.

The bulk of India’s active cases are from three cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad. Maharashtra has the most cases of infections (1,69,883). Delhi has overtaken Tamil Nadu to become the second worst-hit state with 83,077 cases against the latter’s 82,275 as on June 29. But on June 30, Tamil Nadu again overtook Delhi with 86,224 cases to become the state with the second-highest caseload in the country.

A look at India’s coronavirus outbreak

For the past few days of June, India has been recording a continuous surge in coronavirus cases, reporting more than 15,000 cases daily. On June 27, for the first time, India reported nearly 20,000 cases in the 24-hours span, which is being tagged as the biggest single-day jump by the ministry, but the government sees a silver lining as the recoveries rise. As of July 3, out of a tally of 6,25,544 cases, 3.79 lakh people have recovered. According to the health ministry, India’s recovery rate now stands at over 60.72%. On the other hand, experts indicate that the peak is yet to come, as a result, healthcare infrastructure, testing, intensive care facilities, ventilators and overstretched medical staff remain a huge cause for concern in this fight against a pandemic which is not going away anytime soon.

Also Read: Recoveries Rapidly Outpacing Active COVID-19 Cases: Health Ministry

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