COVID-19 pandemic in India
This article needs to be updated.April 2021)(
|COVID-19 pandemic in India|
|First outbreak||Wuhan, Hubei, China|
|Index case||Thrissur, Kerala|
January 2020 – ongoing|
(1 year, 3 months, 1 week and 4 days)
|28 states and 8 union territories|
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. India currently has the largest number of confirmed cases in Asia. As of May 2021, India has the second-highest number of confirmed cases in the world (after the United States) with nearly 20 million reported cases of COVID-19 infection and 242,362 deaths as of 8 May 2021[update].
The first cases of COVID-19 in India were reported in the towns of Thrissur, Alappuzha and Kasargod, all in the state of Kerala, among three Indian medical students who had returned from Wuhan. Lockdowns were announced in Kerala on 23 March, and in the rest of the country on 25 March. By mid-May 2020, five cities accounted for around half of all reported cases in the country: Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Thane. On 10 June, India's recoveries exceeded active cases for the first time. Infection rates started to drop in September, along with the number of new and active cases. Daily cases peaked mid-September with over 90,000 cases reported per-day, dropping to below 15,000 in January 2021.
A second wave beginning in March 2021 was much larger than the first, with shortages of vaccines, hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and other medicines in parts of the country. By late April, India led the world in new and active cases. On 30 April 2021, it became the first country to report over 400,000 new cases in a 24-hour period. Experts believe that India's figures are vastly underreported due to poor infrastructure, low testing rates, and people dying at home. 
India began its vaccination programme on 16 January 2021, and by April was administering 4 million doses a day. India has authorised the British Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine (Covishield), the Indian BBV152 (Covaxin) vaccine, and the Russian Sputnik V vaccine for emergency use. As of 1 May 2021[update], less than 2 percent of the population has been vaccinated.
On 12 January 2020, the WHO confirmed that a novel coronavirus was the cause of a respiratory illness in a cluster of people in Wuhan, Hubei, China, which was reported to the WHO on 31 December 2019.
On 30 January 2020, India reported its first case of COVID-19 in Thrissur, Kerala, which rose to three cases by 3 February 2020; all were students returning from Wuhan. Apart from these, no significant rise in transmissions was observed in February. On 4 March, 22 new cases were reported, including 14 infected members of an Italian tourist group. Transmissions increased over the month after several people with travel history to affected countries, and their contacts, tested positive. On 12 March, a 76-year-old man, with a travel history to Saudi Arabia, became the first COVID-19 fatality of India. A Sikh preacher, who had a travel history to Italy and Germany, turned into a superspreader by attending a Sikh festival in Anandpur Sahib during 10–12 March. 27 COVID-19 cases were traced back to him. Over 40,000 people in 20 villages in Punjab were quarantined on 27 March to contain the spread.
On 31 March, a Tablighi Jamaat religious congregation event in Delhi, which had taken place earlier in March, emerged as a superspreader event, after numerous cases across the country were traced back to it. On 18 April, the Health ministry announced that 4,291 cases were directly linked to the event. As of 4 April, about 22,000 people who came in contact with the Tablighi Jamaat missionaries had to be quarantined.
On 2 May, around 4,000 stranded pilgrims returned from Hazur Sahib in Nanded, Maharashtra to Punjab. Many of them tested positive, including 27 bus drivers and conductors who had been part of the transport arrangement. By 13 May, 1,225 pilgrims had tested positive.
In July 2020, it was estimated based on antibody tests that at least 57% of the inhabitants of Mumbai's slums may have been infected with COVID-19 at some point.
A government panel on COVID-19 stated in October 2020 that the pandemic had peaked in India, and could come under control by February 2021. This prediction was based on a mathematical simulation referred to as the "Indian Supermodel", assuming that India reaches herd immunity. That month, a new SARS-CoV-2 variant, Lineage B.1.617, was detected in the country.
India began its vaccination programme on 16 January 2021. On 19 January 2021, nearly a year after the first reported case in the country, Lakshadweep became the last region of India to report its first case. By February 2021, daily cases had fallen to 9,000 per-day. However, by early-April 2021, a major second wave of infections took hold in the country; on 9 April, India surpassed 1 million active cases, and on 12 April, India overtook Brazil as having the second-most COVID-19 cases worldwide, behind only the United States.
Multiple factors have been cited as having potentially contributed to the sudden spike in cases, including highly-infectious variants of concern such as Lineage B.1.617, a lack of preparations (temporary hospitals were often dismantled after cases started to decline, and new facilities were not built), and health and safety precautions being poorly-implemented or enforced during festivals (such as Holi on 29 March, and the Haridwar Kumbh Mela in April), sporting events (such as IPL), state and local elections in several states, and in public places. An economic slowdown put pressure on the government to lift restrictions, and there had been a feeling of exceptionalism based on the hope that India's young population and childhood immunisation scheme would blunt the impact of the virus. Models may have underestimated projected cases and deaths due to the under-reporting of cases in the country.
The Haridwar Kumbh Mela was linked to at least 1,700 positive cases between 10 and 14 April alone, and 68 cases among Hindu seers between 5-14 April. Politicians and activists, including Prime Minister Modi, have been criticised for holding rallies during the pandemic. Due to high demand, the vaccination programme began to be hit with supply issues; exports of the Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine were suspended in order to meet domestic demand, there have been shortages of the raw materials required to manufacture vaccines domestically, while hesitancy and a lack of knowledge among poorer, rural communities has also impacted the programme.
By late April, India passed 2.5 million active cases and was reporting an average of 300,000 new cases and 2,000 deaths per-day. Some analysts feared this was an undercount; epidemiologist Bhramar Mukherjee has estimated that the actual death toll of the pandemic in India may be two to five times higher than the official totals. On 26 April, India reported 350,000 new cases and over 2,800 deaths in one day. On 30 April, India reported over 400,000 new cases and over 3,500 deaths in one day. An article in the Lancet estimated that India might face up to one million (ten lakh) deaths by 1 August 2021.
The second wave placed a major strain on the healthcare system, including an ongoing shortage of liquid medical oxygen due to unanticipated demand, delays in transport, and a lack of cryogenic tankers. On 21 April, 22 COVID-19 patients who required ventilators died at a hospital in Maharashtra after an accident caused a leak in its main oxygen supply. On 23 April, Modi met via videoconference with liquid oxygen suppliers, where he acknowledged the need to "provide solutions in a very short time", and acknowledged efforts such as increases in production, and the use of rail (with the Indian Railways transporting tankers via "Oxygen Express" trains) and air transport to deliver oxygen supplies. On 25 April, the PM CARES Fund announced that it would allocate funding to install 551 oxygen plants using pressure swing adsorption at public health facilities.
A number of countries announced that they would provide emergency aid to India. European Union member states announced that they would send oxygen supplies, medicines and ventilators through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The United Kingdom planned to send oxygen concentrators and additional ventilators. Following political pressure, the United States offered to provide personal protective equipment and to lift export controls on vaccines and their materials in order to send raw materials for producing the Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine. This was the first time in 16 years that India started accepting gifts, donations and aid from foreign nations, including China. Head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Anthony Fauci stated that the country had not ruled out sending supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine—which has not yet been approved in the U.S.—to India.
Health care and testing
|Total samples tested||303,750,077|
|Total positive cases||22,991,927|
|New samples tested||1,474,606|
|New Positive cases||329,517|
|New Positivity Rate||22.34%|
|Total active cases||3,720,695|
|Total recovered cases||19,021,207|
|People vaccinated 1st dose||134,404,867|
|People vaccinated 2nd dose||35,771,736|
|As of May 10, 2021|
The Union Health Ministry's war room and policy making team in New Delhi decide how coronavirus should be tackled in the country, and consists of the ministry's Emergency Medical Response Unit, the Central Surveillance Unit (IDSP), the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and experts from three government hospitals. In March 2020, India's strategy was focused on cluster-containment, similar to how India contained previous epidemics, as well as "breaking the chain of transmission". 52 labs were named capable of virus testing by 13 March.
On 14 March 2020, scientists at the National Institute of Virology isolated a strain of the novel coronavirus. India was the fifth country to successfully obtain a pure sample of the virus, after China, Japan, Thailand and the US. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said that isolation of the virus will help towards expediting the development of drugs, vaccines and rapid diagnostic kits in the country. NIV has shared two SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences with GISAID. On 16 April, China sent 650,000 testing kits to India but their use was discontinued in view of a very low accuracy (of just 5.4%). In May, the National Institute of Virology introduced another antibody test kit ELISA for rapid testing, capable of processing 90 samples in a single run of 2.5 hours.
Initially, the labs tested samples only from those with a travel history to 12 countries designated as high-risk, or those who had come in contact with anyone testing positive for the coronavirus, or showing symptoms as per the government guidelines. On 20 March 2020, the government decided to also include all pneumonia cases, regardless of travel or contact history after the country saw a sharp increase in the number of cases. The first and second confirmatory tests for the virus has been made free by the government. On 9 April, ICMR further revised the testing strategy and allowed testing of the people showing symptoms for a week in the hotspot areas of the country, regardless of travel history or local contact to a patient.
The Ministry of Health said that only 10 per cent of test capacity had been used per day till 15 March 2020, claiming that the number of tests was enough. However experts thought they were not, saying that community transmission may go undetected without adequate testing. They also wanted to add more testing centres by including private laboratories. In mid-March the government authorised accredited private labs to test for the virus.
Expansion of tests
On 17 March 2020, the Union Ministry of Health decided to allow private pathology labs to test for COVID-19. The ministry official claimed that by allowing private labs, the work of testing can be doubled. The ministry said that National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) accredited laboratories may soon be allowed. Once set up, a person could get a COVID-19 test at a private lab after a qualified physician in a government facility recommended it. The ICMR has appealed to the private labs to offer the tests for free as the government labs do.
On 18 March, a top health ministry official said that Roche Diagnostics, a Swiss company, has been given Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency approval to conduct tests for Covid-19. The Indian regulator gave them a licence to conduct diagnostic tests of the virus on 17 March. At the end of March 2020 the government also issued guidelines to cap the cost of sample testing by private labs at ₹4,500.
On 19 March, Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy stated that India could be facing a "tsunami of cases within a few weeks" as testing increases and the reason for the low number of confirmed cases currently is due to under-testing. He also said that according to mathematical models applied in the US or UK at least 20%–60% of the population will be affected. Applying the same models in India means that at the lower end of the estimate there could be 300 million cases of which 4–8 million could be severe.
111 additional labs for testing became functional on 21 March. On 24 March, Pune-based molecular diagnostic company Mylab Discovery Solutions became the first Indian company to have received validation for its RT-PCR tests from the National Institute of Virology and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). The test takes 2.5 hours and the company is looking to price it at around ₹1,200 (US$17), or Rs 80,000 for a 100 test kit. In April, Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology of Delhi had developed low cost paper-strip test that could detect COVID-19 within an hour. Each test would cost ₹500 (US$7.00). On 13 April, ICMR advised pool testing in the low infection areas with a positivity rate less than 2% to increase the capacity of the testing and save resources. In this process maximum five samples are tested at once and samples are tested individually only if a pool tests positive.
On 16 April 2020, 650,000 rapid antibody test and RNA extraction kits were dispatched from China, and over 2 million kits were to be sent in next 15 days. On 21 April, Health department of West Bengal alleged that large number of testing kits supplied by ICMR-NICED (National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases) were giving inconclusive results. ICMR-NICED admitted that there was problem in the kits and said that they are addressing the issue. While Rajasthan stopped using rapid testing kits as they were giving low accuracy of 5.4% in compared to expected 90% accuracy. Later, ICMR advised all states to stop using rapid testing kits for next two days until their on-ground teams validates these kits. Rapid antibody test kits were put on hold till further notice. The Chinese manufactures of the rapid testing kits said that the testing kits were approved by ICMR and the problem is not with the kits but with the way they were being used. However, Chinese manufacturers promised to cooperate with Indian authorities to resolve the issue. Amid this, ICMR asked states to return the faulty kits which will be sent back to the Chinese suppliers and cancelled the order of all remaining kits.
Testing community transmission
Testing for community transmission began on 15 March. 65 laboratories of the Department of Health Research and the Indian Council of Medical Research (DHR-ICMR) have started testing random samples of people who exhibit flu-like symptoms and samples from patients without any travel history or contact with infected persons. As of 18 March, no evidence of community transmission was found after results of 500 random samples tested negative. Between 15 February and 2 April, 5,911 SARI (Severe Acute Respiratory Illnesses) patients were tested throughout the country of which, 104 tested positive (1.8%) in 20 states and union territories. About 40% of the identified patients did not have travel history or any history of contact with a positive patient. The ICMR advised to prioritize containment in the 36 districts of 15 states which had reported positive cases among SARI patients. By the third quarter of the year, India had attained the highest number of daily tests in the world.
During the second wave in 2021, testing did not keep up with the growing number of cases. Test positivity increased from 2% on March 1 to 22% on May 1.
Daily samples tested
Daily new cases
New cases per day
Research and treatment
In Rajasthan, a combination of anti-malaria, anti-swine flu and anti-HIV drugs resulted in the recovery of three patients in March 2020. In the same month, the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Cipla launched a joint venture to develop anti-COVID-19 drugs. Another Indian firm, Stempeutics, announced plans to introduce a stem cell-based agent for treating critical COVID-19 patients. In April, funds for a number of preventive agents were released to initiate research.
According to estimates, in March 2020 India had around 40,000 ventilators, of which 8,432 are with the public sector. Various Indian PSUs, firms and startups, including DRDO and ISRO, have since repurposed their production lines to manufacture general PPEs, full body suits and ventilators. They are also designing low-cost or mobile medical equipment. The focus was to increase the production of low-cost, compact and portable ventilators that could cater to multiple patients at a time. This led to the creation of some of the world's smallest and cheapest ventilators. The government aims to double the current capacity of ventilators by June 2020 with the assistance from PSUs. The government has also requested major private automakers to explore the possibility of manufacturing ventilators at their plants. Maruti Suzuki, in collaboration with AgVa Healthcare, will supply 10,000 ventilators till end of the May. From nil in near past, India was producing around 200,000 PPE kits and 250,000 N95 masks per day in May 2020. By the second half of the month, India was the world's second largest producer of PPE body coveralls.
The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology has been working on genome sequencing of COVID-19. In May, CCMB started a partnership with a private company Eyestem Research to grow novel coronavirus strain in human lung epithelial cells for research and trials of anti-viral drugs.
On 12 April, the ICMR invited health institutions and hospitals to participate in trials of convalescent plasma therapy and plasma exchange therapy. Later, the ICMR submitted a list of such institutes to the DCGI to start trials, which the DCGI approved. Several states were allowed by ICMR to start clinical trials of the plasma therapy. In Delhi, a 49-year-old man who was on ventilator support became the first patient in the country, who recovered through plasma therapy in April. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal said that the initial results of the plasma therapy treatment on four patients gave positive and encouraging results, adding that they had decided to conduct it on three more patients. However, the ICMR later stated that there is no robust evidence to support convalescent plasma therapy as a routine therapy, describing it is as an emerging and experimental therapy. It has some risks, which include life-threatening allergies and lung injuries. The ICMR have since started multi-centre clinical trials to ensure the treatment's safety and efficacy in treating COVID-19 patients across the country.
In June 2020, India approved the repurposing of a generic version of the antiviral medication favipiravir, manufactured by Glenmark Pharmaceuticals under the branding "FabiFlu" for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 symptoms. India later approved generic versions by Cipla and the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Jenburkt, and Lupin Limited at lower costs than FabiFlu.
On 23 April 2021, Cadila Healthcare received an emergency authorisation to repurpose Peginterferon alfa-2b, a medication used to treat hepatitis C, as a treatment for moderate COVID-19 in adults. In July 2020, the Indian firm Biocon received emergency authorisation for the use of the repurposed drug Itolizumab in treatments for chronic plaque psoriasis, one of the symptoms of the disease.
India's Serum Institute of India licensed Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine even before it was approved and built capacity to make 1.5–2.5 billion doses per year. On 1 January 2021, the Drug Controller General of India granted an emergency use authorisation for the vaccine, which was branded "Covishield" for domestic use. By this time, the company had stockpiled 50 million doses, but well short of its own target of 400 million. The Government of India ordered 21 million doses to be delivered by February, but the company said no indication of any further orders were given. So the company began to export the remaining stocks. In March, after India saw a surge in COVID-19 cases, the Government put a block on all vaccine exports, and ordered 110 million doses from the Serum Institute. The company aims to produce 100 million doses per month, but, by May 2021, the production capacity was only 60–70 million doses.
In January, India also approved BBV152 (Covaxin), a domestic vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech in association with the Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Virology. This approval was met with some concern, as the vaccine had not then completed phase 3 trials. Due to this status, those receiving Covaxin were required to sign a consent form, while some states chose to relegate Covaxin to a "buffer stock" and primarily distribute the Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine. In April 2021, India approved the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and awarded emergency use authorisation to Dr. Reddy's Laboratories. Several Indian companies have lined up to manufacture Sputnik V in India, to the tune of 850 million doses. But the initial shipment of 150 million Sputnik V doses came from Russia, on 1 May.
India officially launched its vaccination program on 16 January. Over 160,000 doses were administered on the first day. By early May, it was reported that 160 million doses had been administered, and 30 million people had received two doses. On 1 May 2021, the country began to offer vaccines to all residents 18 and over. Some states were unable to begin vaccination on the day due to shortage of vaccination supplies. Critics viewed this as a politcal decision because the requisite vaccine supplies for this range of population were simply not available.
On 19 March 2020, the Chief Minister (CM) of Kerala announced a stimulus package of ₹20,000 crore (US$2.8 billion) to help the state overcome both the COVID-19 epidemic and economic hardship caused by it. On 21 March, CM of Uttar Pradesh announced ₹1,000 (US$14) to all daily wage labourers. On 22 March, Punjab CM announced ₹3,000 (US$42) to all registered construction workers. Telangana CM announced that white ration card holders will be provided ₹1,500 (US$21) per family through ration shops. On 26 March, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced an economic relief package of ₹1.7 lakh crore (US$24 billion), which would be a mix of food security and direct cash transfer, primarily for migrant labourers and daily wage labourers. Prime Minister's National Relief Fund received several donations – ₹3,381 crore (US$470 million) from the Central Reserve Police Force, and a month's salary from Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and NCP's MPs.
NCP President Sharad Pawar announced that his party's MLAs would donate their one month's salary to Maharashtra CM's Relief Fund. RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das permitted all banks to provide a moratorium on all loans for three months without having to worry about NPAs and keeping their books healthy. He also laid down various measures for injecting ₹3.74 lakh crore (US$52 billion) liquidity into the system. The Union Government released ₹4,431 crore (US$620 million) pay off the pending wages of daily wage labourers who come under MGNREGA scheme. In Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal announced that if a doctor, nurse or hygiene worker dies during treatment, their family will be provided ₹1 crore (US$140,000). Karnataka CM announced ₹16.1 billion (US$230 million) relief for unorganized sectors including flower growers, washermen and women, barbers, construction workers, auto and cab drivers, MSMEs, and weavers.
The outbreak has been declared an epidemic in more than a dozen states and union territories, where provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 have been invoked, leading to the temporary closure of educational and commercial establishments. All tourist visas were suspended in March, as many of the earliest confirmed cases were individuals who had travelled from foreign countries.
Central government response
In mid-March 2020, a number of cities and states announced that they would restrict public gatherings, dine-in restaurants, or order the closure of various non-essential businesses through 31 March to slow the spread of COVID-19, including the capital Delhi, Lucknow, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Punjab, and Rajasthan. On 19 March 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked all Indians to observe a 14-hour Janata curfew ("people's curfew") on 22 March, and to thank essential workers by clapping or ringing bells at 5 p.m. outside their homes. The curfew was used to evaluate the feasibility of a national lockdown, but the call for Indians to honour essential workers resulted in celebratory crowds—directly contradicting the spirit of the Janata curfew.
On 24 March, with 519 confirmed cases and 9 deaths in the country, Modi announced that India would be placed under a "total lockdown" for at least three weeks. All non-critical businesses and services were ordered closed except for hospitals, grocery stores, and pharmacies, and there was a "total ban" on leaving the home for non-essential purposes. All public transport was suspended. Based on the number of deaths at the time they were announced, India imposed strict measures earlier than a number of other countries. It was stated that the country needed consistent, national measures, and NITI Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar stated that the lockdown was imposed "after consultations with everyone." In late-March 2021, BBC News reported that the lockdown was imposed without evidence of consultation with the offices of the chief minister or governor in several states, nor the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
On 26 March, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced free gas cylinders for three months will be provided to beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana. On 14 April, Modi announced that the lockdown would be extended to 3 May, but with plans to begin relaxing some restrictions after 20 April in regions where COVID-19 transmission was minimal or contained. On 16 April, districts were divided into zones using a colour-coded tier system based on incidence rates, classified as a "Red" (hotspot), "Orange", or "Green" (little to no transmission) zone. All of India's major cities fell into Red zones. Beginning 20 April, agricultural businesses and stores selling farming supplies were allowed to resume operation, as well as public works programmes, cargo transport, and banks and government centres distributing benefits. Indian Railways produced a total of 2 lakh (200,000) masks and 25,000 sanitisers.
On 1 May, the lockdown order was extended to a third phase through 17 May, with some relaxation and changes based on zones. Public gatherings and the operation of railway services, educational institutions, malls, cinemas, and places of worship remained prohibited, and all zones were subject to a curfew for non-essential movement between 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. nightly. Offices could operate at 33% capacity, with all other employees required to work from home. All private and government employees were required to use the government contact tracing app Aarogya Setu. In orange zones, taxis were allowed to operate with two passengers and one driver, and in green zones bus service could resume at 50% capacity, and all other activities could resume unless otherwise prohibited nationwide.
On 17 May, the lockdown was extended into a fourth phase through 31 May, with some changes. All existing nationwide prohibitions remained in force, but other activities could resume nationwide unless otherwise prohibited. Inter-state travel would be permitted with consent of the applicable state or union territory, markets could operate with capacity restrictions, and sports would be allowed to resume, but spectators were prohibited. States were also given greater power in determining their districts' zone classification. The country began a phased lifting of restrictions on 8 June.
PM CARES Fund
On 28 March 2020, the Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) was set up to provide relief to those impacted by COVID-19. Several large business groups and PSUs contributed to the relief fund. On 13 May, the fund announced its first allocation of ₹3,100 crore (US$430 million), would be used to fund the local manufacturing of ventilators, and provide support for migrant workers impacted by the pandemic.
The Indian military has supported the Indian government's response during the pandemic. During the second wave, some of the steps taken by the Indian military to help the fight against the pandemic includes setting up of covid facilities, setting up of oxygen PSA plants, providing domestic and international air and water transport assistance, providing medical assistance to civilians, providing nursing assistance and truck drivers, providing support to centre and states as requested,  roping in retired military medics, providing manpower with specialised skills, and roping in the National Cadet Corps.
In late March 2020, the states of Karnataka and Bihar announced free rations for ration card holders. Other states and union territories, including Delhi and Telangana increased ration amounts. Andhra Pradesh provided free rations for the poor. On 25 March, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar announced that 80 million people would be given wheat at cheaper rates, and that three months of rations would be given in advance. On 21 April 2020, Arvind Kejriwal announced that 10 million people would be given free rations in Delhi.
On 23 April 2021, Modi announced ration card holders would be provided 5kg extra food grains in May and June under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana program. The Home Minister, Amit Shah, said this would benefit an estimated 800 million people.
India's judiciary has been active during the pandemic, trying to ensure accountability among other things. In early May 2021, the Supreme Court of India set up a 12-member task force to take up the availability of medical oxygen in the country. Amid the pandemic and cases of the government restricting criticism, the Supreme Court upheld free flow of information.
In March-April 2020, several companies and organisations donated masks and other pandemic related supplies. Following the first wave a study on the private health sector in India stated that the sector was underutilized.
Leading Indian corporates have come forward to provide support to hospitals across the country. This includes procuring, setting up and maintaining cryogenic tanks, medical equipment and ventilators. Wipro and Azim Premji Foundation among other business leaders in India have set up covid facilities. American companies such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft extended support. The chief executive officers of 40 US companies set up a global task force to collaborate on procuring equipment to support India. Ola is providing doorstep delivery of medical oxygen.
International support has been provided to India since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. In late April 2021, international relief being transported to India increased. European countries such as France, Ireland, Belgium, Romania, Luxembourg, Portugal and Sweden sent pandemic related aid such as oxygen concentrators, ventilators and medicines. France and Germany also sent oxygen plants; Germany also sent 12 army paramedics to operate the plants. Oxygen related equipment was shipped from Bahrain, Thailand, Singapore and Saudi Arabia. Russia, United States of America and UNICEF sent various relief material including oxygen producing units. In April 2021 Taiwan sent 150 oxygen machines to India. The oxygen machines had been purchased by the Taiwanese government and modified for India’s electrical voltage. Other countries to have provided support include Bhutan, Bangladesh, Switzerland, Poland, the Netherlands and Israel. On 5 May 2021, Indian External Affairs Minister said that "What you describe as aid, we call friendship" in response to foreign support during the pandemic.
On 25 April 2021 the government confirmed that it had made an emergency order requiring at least 100 social media posts to be removed by Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, which included posts that it believed were misinformation, inducing panic among the public, or obstructing the response to the pandemic. The social media services compiled by withholding the posts from users within India. This included tweets critical of the response by West Bengal Minister of Labour and Law Moloy Ghatak, filmmaker and journalist Vinod Kapri, MP Revanth Reddy, and actor Viineet Kumar.
Deaths of doctors due to COVID-19
On 8 August 2020, Indian Medical Association (IMA) announced that 198 doctors have died due to COVID. This number was increased to 515 by October 2020. By 3 February 2021, the Indian Medical Association announced that 734 doctors died due to COVID-19. However just a day before the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare announced in the Rajya Sabha that 162 doctors had died due to COVID-19.
As of 17 April 2021, IMA estimated deaths of doctors at 747.
There were severe shortages of the drug Remdesvir in India during the second wave of the pandemic. Some COVID-19 patients even relied on the black market to purchase the anti-viral drug. In view of these shortages, the government banned exports of the drug to other countries.
On 16 March 2020, the union government ordered the closure of schools and colleges. On 18 March, CBSE released revised guidelines for examination centres. This includes maintaining a distance of at least 1 metre between the students taking the exam with a class not having more than 24 students. If the rooms of the examination centres are small, divide the students and make them sit in different rooms. On 19 March, CBSE and JEE main examinations were postponed till 31 March.
On 20 March, the Maharashtra government cancelled examinations for class 1 to 8 and promoted the students to the next classes, whereas examinations for class 9 and 11 were postponed till 15 April. The Madhya Pradesh Board of Secondary Education postponed board exams for class 10 and 12 and asked school principals to promote or detain students of class 5 to 8 based on their performance in previous terms. Board exams of class 10 and 12 were postponed in Kerala. Assam government cancelled all exams till 31 March. The Union Public Service Commission also postponed the interview for the Civil Services Examination 2019 to be held from 23 March to 3 April. The SSC exams in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry were postponed to 15 April.
On 2 March, the BSE SENSEX witnessed a flash crash on the back of Union Health Ministry's announcement of two new confirmed cases. A UN report estimated a trade impact of US$348 million on India due to the outbreak, making India one of the 15 worst affected economies across the world. Asian Development Bank estimated that the outbreak could cause losses of up to US$29.9 billion to India's economy. On 9 March, The BSE SENSEX closed 1,942 points lower at 35,635 while the NSE NIFTY 50 was down by 538 points to 10,451.
On 12 March, Indian stock markets suffered their worst crash since June 2017 after WHO's declaration of the outbreak as a pandemic. The BSE SENSEX dropped 8.18 per cent or 2,919 points which was its lowest in 23 months while the NIFTY dropped 9 per cent or 950 points.
Exodus of migrant workers
The 2020 lockdown left tens of millions of migrant workers unemployed. With factories and workplaces shut down, many migrant workers were left with no livelihood. They thus decided to walk hundreds of kilometres to go back to their native villages, accompanied by their families in many cases. In response, the Central and State governments took various measures to help them. The Central Government then announced that it had asked state governments to set up immediate relief camps for the migrant workers returning to their native states, and later issued orders protecting the rights of the migrants.
In its report to the Supreme Court of India on 30 March 2020, the Central Government stated that the migrant workers, apprehensive about their survival, moved in the panic created by fake news that the lockdown would last for more than three months. In early May, the Central Government finally permitted the Indian Railways to launch "Shramik Special" trains for the migrant workers and others stranded, but this move had a few complications. On 26 May, the Supreme Court admitted that the problems of the migrants had still not been solved and ordered the Centre and States to provide free food, shelter and transport to stranded migrant workers.
Panic buying and food security
There have been several incidents of panic buying in India related to the pandemic. Retailers and consumer goods firms saw their average daily sales more than double on 19 March as consumers rushed to buy essentials ahead of Modi's address to the nation. Modi assured the citizens that there was enough food and ration supplies and advised them against panic buying. The lockdown disrupted food supplies and threatened to trigger a food crisis. By the first week of April, essential industries such as growing, harvesting and food deliveries were allowed to operate.
On 4 March 2020 the Prime Minister and Union Home Minister tweeted that they would not be participating in Holi programmes due to COVID-19. The pandemic and subsequent lockdown resulted in numerous religious festivals being largely celebrated within homes or seeing less than normal public turnouts adhering to social distancing guidelines. Festivals such as Easter (12 April), Eid ul-Fitr (23 May), Eid ul-Adha, Guru Arjan Dev Martyrdom Day (16 June) and Krishna Janmashtami (11 August) were affected. The Char Dham was conducted in a controlled manner; in 2020 pilgrims numbered 400,000 while the previous year had seen 3,800,000 pilgrims.
During the lockdown, many religious institutions started live-streaming to help devotees worship from home. Many revered temples and shrines started imposing entry restrictions as the infection rates increased. Many Christian churches suspended in-person mass and offered worship for their congregants through livestreaming, radio and television. The Government announced the opening of religious places beginning 8 June under "Unlock 1" and also released detailed guidelines for subsequent operations on 4 June.
Purported super-spreader events of a religious nature included the 2020 Tablighi Jamaat COVID-19 hotspot in Delhi, and the 2021 Haridwar Kumbh Mela. The state of Uttarakhand, where the Kumbh was too place, saw a 1800% increase in COVID-19 during the period the Kumbh was held. 2021 saw numerous religious events ignore social distancing guidelines such as Holi and Eid.
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17 March 2020 onwards, private airlines such as IndiGo and Go Air started cancelling flights. On 19 March, the Government of India announced that no international flights will be allowed to land in India from 22 March. On 23 March, the union government announced the suspension of all domestic flights in the country starting 25 March. Vande Bharat Mission, a mass evacuation program, was started by the government of India to repatriate 250,000 stranded Indians around the world. On 7 August, Air India Express Flight 1344, a repatriation flight, crashed while landing at Calicut International Airport, killing 18 of the 190 people on board. Two of the survivors tested positive for COVID-19.
Indian Railways took various initiatives to fight against the pandemic. Initially this included removing curtains and blankets from AC coaches, hiking platform tickets, and cancelling 3700 trains. Metro services across India were suspended. On 22 March, all train services in the country were cancelled baring goods trains, that is around 12,500 trains, and all non-essential passenger transport including interstate transport buses. After Modi extended the nationwide lockdown to 3 May, Indian Railways suspended all services on its passenger trains and all ticket bookings indefinitely. On 8 May, the Aurangabad railway accident occurred due to confusion related to the pandemic. Public transport across the nation was affected.
A number of sporting events and fixtures in India were suspended, postponed or conducted behind closed doors such as the Indian Open badminton tournament, I-League, I-League 2nd Division, 2020 Indian Super League Final, TCS World 10 Bengaluru, the IAAF Gold Label Road Race, and a FIFA World Cup qualification match (India versus Qatar). The 2020 ISSF World Cup, which was to commence on 15 March in New Delhi, was postponed. On 13 March, the Board of Control for Cricket in India announced that the opening of the 2020 Indian Premier League was postponed from 29 March to 15 April. On 16 April, BCCI suspended the tournament indefinitely due to the pandemic. The same day, BCCI cancelled the ODI matches between India and South Africa on 15 and 18 March, which were originally announced to be played without spectators. The IPL would instead be played at sites in the United Arab Emirates.
Since 7 March 2020, the BSF has decided to conduct the Wagah-Attari border ceremony without any spectators. The Padma Awards ceremony, scheduled for 3 April 2020, was postponed. On 17 March 2020, it was announced that all historical buildings in the country would remain closed to visitors; the monuments were opened to the public only on 6 July.
The International Indian Film Academy Awards, scheduled to take place on 27 March 2020, was cancelled. Cinema halls were shut down by most state governments. Film bodies decided to stop the production of films, TV shows and web series till 31 March 2020. On 25 March 2020, all major video streaming services in the country jointly announced that they would restrict streaming of high definition video on cellular networks during the 21-day lockdown, in order to preserve network capacity and infrastructure. On 28 March 2020, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation announced that Colors Rishtey, Sony Pal, Star Utsav, and Zee Anmol would be available for free on cable and DTH satellite providers for two months in order to provide entertainment during lockdown.
Cases have been reported in all states and union territories.
Undercounting of cases and deaths
Undercounting of total cases and death figures was reported during the first wave in 2020. The discrepancies were detected by comparing official death counts released by the governments to the number of deaths reported in obituaries, at crematoria and burial grounds, etc. Some states were reported to have not added suspected cases to the final count contrary to WHO guidelines. Similar undercounting was reported during the second wave in 2021. There have been large gaps noted between official death figures and the sudden increase in the number of bodies being cremated and buried. Several crematoria that had been in disuse earlier were brought back into operation to keep up with the demand.
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- "Home | Ministry of Health and Family Welfare | GOI". mohfw.gov.in. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to COVID-19 pandemic in India.|
- COVID-19 on MyGov.in – Government's portal for COVID-19
- "District Map of CoViD-19 in India". fieldmaps.in. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
- COVID-19 pandemic in India playlist on YouTube – COVID-19 Management videos by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
- Prasad, R.; Perappadan, Bindu Shajan; Shelar, Jyoti (2020). George, P.J. (ed.). The Pandemic Notebook (PDF). The Hindu.
A handy guide from The Hindu on understanding the coronavirus pandemic and staying protected against COVID-19
- Khaiwal, Ravindra; Mor, Suman. "Kids, Vaayu & Corona: Who wins the fights (A comic series for COVID-19 awareness)" (PDF). www.mohfw.gov.in. MoHFW, Government of India.
- "Reuters Covid-19 Tracker India. Current charts of infections, deaths, vaccinations". Reuters.com.