The first confirmed case of coronavirus in India was reported in Kerala’s Thrissur district. It was a student who came back from China’s Wuhan University on vacation. It almost took a month for COVID-19 to enter India.
The confirmed COVID-19 cases and death rate in India are comparatively lower than most other more prominent countries. At the time of writing this article as per the Health Ministry (as on April 20 2020, 08:00 GMT+5:30):
Total number of confirmed cases in India – 17,265
Recovered – 2,547
Deaths – 543
The most affected countries are the US (639,664 infections, 30,985 deaths), Spain (180,659 infections; 18,812 deaths), Italy (165,155 infections; 21,645 deaths), Germany (134,753 infections; 3,804 deaths), France (134,582 infections; 17,188 deaths), United Kingdom (99,489 infections; 12,894 deaths), and China (83,402 infections; 3,346 deaths).
The total confirmed COVID-19 infection count in the world is more than 2,065,906, followed by 134,124 deaths.
Timeline of 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic in India:
December 31, 2019:
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 coronavirus infection in the world was reported in China’s Wuhan city in Hubei Province. It was first reported as a cluster of pneumonia cases.
January 5, 2020:
The first Disease Outbreak News on the new coronavirus was published by WHO (World Health Organisation).
January 30 – February 3, 2020:
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 coronavirus was reported in Kerala’s Thrissur district on January 30. The second and third confirmed cases were reported from Kerala’s Alappuzha and Kasaragod districts respectively on February 2 and February 3. All of them were students who came back from China’s Wuhan University.
India started to implement specific protective measures in January, including thermal screening of passengers who arrived from China on January 21, 2020. While this facility was initially started in seven airports, by the end of January, it was expanded to 20 airports.
The thermal screening facility in the airports was extended during February for passengers from South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Nepal.
March 2, 2020:
- The first few cases outside Kerala were reported.
- The Union Health Ministry reported that two persons outside Kerala had contracted the COVID-19. One person was 45-years old and hailed from Delhi. He supposedly contracted the disease while travelling in Italy recently.
- Another confirmed COVID-19 case was reported from Hyderabad. The patient was a 24-year old engineer, who recently travelled to UAE. Around 88 persons who were in contact with the engineer (fellow bus passengers from Bangalore) were tracked down by the government and put under mandatory quarantine to keep an eye on.
March 4, 2020:
Dr Harsh Vardhan, the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, announced that India would screen all international passengers arriving in India on a compulsory basis.
March 5, 2020:
Due to a sharp rise in new coronavirus cases in the Delhi-NCR region, the Government of Delhi announced precautionary measures including shutting down of the primary schools in Delhi up to March 31, 2020.
March 7, 2020:
Two cases of “high viral load” COVID-19 infection were reported in Jammu. This made the administration shut down all its primary schools till March 21, 2020, in both Jammu and Samba districts.
March 9, 2020:
Mizoram and Manipur governments started restricting land borders with Myanmar.
March 10, 2020:
- The magnanimous festival of Holi (a celebration of colours) was asked to be celebrated indoors as the health ministry issued a notice urging the people of India to “avoid participating in large gatherings.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he would not celebrate Holi this year due to coronavirus outbreak.
- Kerala government announces the shutting down of all schools and colleges during March 11-31, 2020.
March 11, 2020:
World Health Organisation characterises COVID-19 as a pandemic.
March 12, 2020:
- India reports its first death from COVID-19 coronavirus. It was a 76-year-old person from Karnataka who was earlier confirmed a coronavirus carrier.
- Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal announces shutting down of all schools, colleges and cinema halls in New Delhi.
- Karnataka CM B. S. Yediyurappa announces closing down of all educational institutions, malls, cinema halls, and pubs for a week. Prohibitory orders have also been issued regarding holding of public events such as weddings and parties.
- Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik declared COVID-19 outbreak a disaster and to deal with it Rs. 200 crore has been earmarked. Odisha government went on to announce the closing down of educational institutions as well as cinema halls till the end of March. Non-essential official gatherings were also prohibited.
- Maharashtra government declared COVID-19 an epidemic in major cities such as Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Navi Mumbai, and Pimpri Chinchwad. The government went on to announce the shutting down of cinema halls, malls, and gyms in these epidemic centres of Maharashtra.
March 13, 2020:
- India suspends all visas for incoming international tourists till April 15, 2020. International border points with neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and Myanmar were closed. Visa-free travel for Overseas Citizens of India was also suspended. Passenger traffic from all neighbouring countries excluding Pakistan was cancelled.
- Government issued order of mandatory 14-days quarantine for all tourists arriving from 7 worst-affected countries (China, South Korea, Spain Italy, Iran, France, and Germany).
- Confirmed COVID-19 infection cases in India doubled to 73 in just 4-days.
- The state governments of Chhattisgarh and Punjab declared holidays in both schools and colleges till March 31, 2020.
- Manipur government announces temporary closing down of schools (where examinations are not being held) till March 31, 2020.
March 14, 2020:
- Himachal Pradesh CM Jai Ram Thakur declares shutting down of all educational institutions and theatres till March 31, 2020, as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.
- West Bengal government announces closing down all educational institutions till March 31, 2020. However, the state government decided to continue board examinations.
- Maharashtra government issues orders to close down all schools, colleges, movie theatres, shopping malls, gyms, and swimming pools in urban areas of the state.
- Rajasthan government announces to close down all educational institutions, cinema halls, and gyms till March 30, 2020. However, the government decided to continue the on-going examinations in the state.
March 15, 2020:
- The first-100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection were reported in India.
- Goa CM Pramod Sawant declares closing down of all educational institutions till March 31, 2020. However, it decides to carry out all Goa Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education as per schedule.
- The Gujarat government announces closing down of all educational institutions (including schools and colleges) and cinema halls till March 31, 2020. However, the state government decided to continue board examinations.
- Both Tamil Nadu and Telangana governments announce closing down of schools, theatres, and malls till March 31, 2020.
- All monuments and museums under the Archaeological Survey of India were closed down by the Ministry of Culture till March 31, 2020.
March 16, 2020:
All kinds of traffic from Pakistan were closed.
March 17, 2020:
- The central government urged all Indian states (by issuing an advisory) to implement physical distancing measures till March 31, 2020, so that the spiralling COVID-19 infection can be controlled.
- The union government asked all Central Armed Police Forces through a directive to get into battle mode to control the COVID-19 pandemic in India. Consequently, the union government cancelled all non-essential leave of all personnel and officers of the Central Armed Police Forces. A task force, especially aimed at controlling COVID-19 infection, has been formed. It was named COVID-19 Economic Response Task Force.
- Uttar Pradesh government decides to shut down schools, colleges, and multiplexes in the state. The on-going exams were also postponed.
- The Maharashtra government ordered closing down of all government offices in the state for 7-days. Mumbai Police issued an order to close pubs discotheques temporarily, and bars till March 31, 2020.
- The governing civic body of Mumbai, BMC (Brihanmumbai Mumbai Corporation), ordered the private sector companies to work with 50% of their total staff capacity. In case of violations, BMC could use IPC 188 to prosecute the companies violating the order.
- Till March 31, 2020, the Rajasthan government banned all kinds of gatherings of more than 50-persons in public places.
- Tamil Nadu government locked down all important tourist destinations in the state. The district administration closed the tourist sites in Nilgiri district such as Ooty. The tourists were given 24-hour time to leave the city.
- Chandigarh administration ordered closing down of cinema halls, shopping malls, swimming pools, gyms, spas, coaching centres, video game parlours, and crèches were locked down till March 31, 2020. While census works were postponed, public gathering of more than 100 persons was banned.
- All the schools, colleges, cinema halls, and gymnasiums were shut down by Puducherry (popularly known as Pondicherry) till March 31, 2020.
- Sikkim ordered to restrict entry to domestic travellers. The travellers already inside the state were asked to leave.
March 18, 2020:
All foreign tourists were banned entry into Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar district, as per the orders of the district magistrate and deputy commissioner.
All educational institutions in Andhra Pradesh have been closed down by the state government.
March 17-18, 2020:
The measures concerning with-visa and visa-free travelling to India were suspended for all travellers from Malaysia, Gulf countries, and Europe.
March 19, 2020:
- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the Indian citizen to observe “Janta Curfew” on March 22, 2020 (from 7 am-to-9 pm). All citizens (except for the persons involved in essential services) were asked to stay at home.
- He also urged the Indian citizens to thank the works done by the professionals of the essential services by applauding them for 5-minutes from the front of the doors, balconies, and windows, starting at 5 pm.
- Himachal Pradesh administration banned the entry of all tourists into the state including domestic and foreign tourists from March 19, 2020, till further notice.
March 21, 2020:
Punjab administration banned plying of all kinds of public transports in the state.
March 22, 2020:
- On Sunday, the Indian Railways made an unprecedented announcement. It announced to suspend all its passenger services (including passenger trains, mail trains, long-distance trains, and suburban trains) from the midnight of March 22, 2020, to midnight of March 31, 2020, to stop the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
- An estimate started doing the rounds that around 13,500 passenger trains will not run throughout India daily. During this period, only the goods trains (which are estimated to be around 9,000 goods trains every day) were ordered to run.
March 23, 2020:
Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray announced closing down of all district borders. A strict statewide curfew was implemented to control the spiralling situation of COVID-19 infection in Maharashtra.
March 24, 2020:
- A pan-India 21-day lockdown (from Tuesday midnight, i.e. March 25, 2020, to April 14, 2020) was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to break the chain of COVID-19 infection.
- PM Modi categorically said: “Every state, every district, every lane, every village will be under lockdown.” At the time of this lockdown, India had recorded 564 confirmed cases of COVID-19 coronavirus infection.
- Modi government also allotted Rs. 15,000 crore to purchase PPE (personal protection equipment) equipment for healthcare professionals and set-up testing laboratories as well as quarantine centres.
March 26, 2020:
On Thursday, Assam’s Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma visited the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium (also known as Sarusajai Stadium) in Guwahati and took stock of the progress in the construction of a COVID-19 coronavirus isolation centre. The facility would help the Assam government in quarantining at least 1,000 people.
March 27, 2020:
Because of the spiralling COVID-19 pandemic in the state, the Tamil Nadu government had issued appointment orders to 500 doctors, 1,000 nurses, and 1,508 laboratory technicians with immediate effect. The concerned government order also sought to increase the ambulance fleet by 200.
March 28, 2020:
Over 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection were reported in India.
Other Important Events that took place throughout March 2020:
- During early-to-mid-March 2020, the Union government came up with several plans to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in India. Seven union ministries worked in unison to come up with a plan for setting up additional quarantine and treatment facilities throughout India.
- Over 20 union ministries (including home, railways, defence, tourism, aviation, labour, and minority affairs) along with the state governments have been informed about the comprehensive COVID-19 containment plan. A plan for avoiding panic-like situation has also been drawn.
- The Ministry of Textiles was assigned the task of creating adequate protective and medial gears/materials so that it is available to all.
- The Department of Pharmaceuticals has been tasked to ensure adequate essential medicines are available.
- To ensure the availability of essential products and food items, the responsibility was given to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution.
- In all the three facilities in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram, the ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) adopted numerous precautionary measures including suspension of bio-metric fingerprint scanning, disabling of entrance turnstiles, limiting the internal meetings, bringing down travel to a minimum, and increasing medical surveillance. However, the schedules of the missions were kept unaffected.
April 1, 2020:
The first 50 deaths from COVID-19 reported in India.
April 3, 2020:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a televised address, urged the Indian citizen to turn off the lights for 9-minutes on April 5, 2020, starting from 9 pm. He also urged people to light candles when the light is turned off.
April 5, 2020:
The death toll from COVID-19 coronavirus in India crossed 100.
April 7, 2020:
Over 5,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection were reported in India.
April 10-13, 2020:
- As the 21-days nationwide lockdown period reached an end, many state governments suggested extension of the lockdown.
- The state governments, including Odisha, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Punjab, extended the lockdown till April 30, 2020.
April 14, 2020:
- Over 10,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection were reported in India.
- During a televised announcement, PM Narendra Modi announced the extension of the pan-India lockdown till May 3, 2020.
- However, he also announced a conditional relaxation of the lockdown in places from April 20, 2020, in locations that were successful in containing the spread of COVID-19 infection.
PM Modi urged Indian citizens to follow 7-steps to fight the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in India:
- Use homemade masks. Maintain social and physical distancing.
- Help the poor and those who need the most.
- Protect jobs, especially those who work in the private sector.
- Take care of older adults.
- Download the Aarogya Setu app and keep track of their health.
- Follow the immunity-boosting guidelines provided by the Ministry of AYUSH.
- Show respect and honour the personnel and professionals of the essential services including doctors, police, sanitation workers, and others.
April 15, 2020:
Total confirmed COVID-19 infection cases in India crossed 11,000-mark.
April 20, 2020
- Manipur becomes the first state to declare that it is coronavirus free.
- Telangana first state to extend lockdown till May 7, food delivery apps not allowed.
- Death toll due to COVID-19 rises to 543 in the country as number of cases climb to 17,265.
Data published by India’s MoHFW (the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare) shows that the COVID-19 infection cases are increasing rapidly but at a slower pace. While the confirmed COVID-19 cases increased by 24% over the last 2-days, the increase was 28% in the previous 2-days.
Though there are signs of tapering in the growth trajectory of the confirmed COVID-19 cases, it continues to be higher than that of other Asian countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Japan, and Singapore. However, India’s growth trajectory is flatter than the new epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States.
The R-Naught or R-Zero (R0) data (the study conducted by ICMR or Indian Council of Medical Research for estimating the COVID-19’s infection rate) in India shows that the infection rate has come down from 1.83 (on April 6, 2020) to 1.55 (April 11, 2020). On March 3, R0 data was 4, which was at its peak level.
This report indicates that the lockdown restrictions imposed by the central and state governments in India have worked.
There are two reasons for the comparatively lower numbers of COVID-19 infections in India:
- Country-wide lockdown from March 24, 2020, to April 14, 2020, (21-days lockdown) and extension till May 3, 2020, has restricted movement of individuals and helped in physical and social distancing. This lockdown has restricted movement of individuals and in turn, helped in limiting the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in India to a large extent.
- Experts believe that the lower number of coronavirus cases in India is because of the lower rate of COVID-19 testing. Reports say that the rate of testing in India is around 18 tests per 1-million of the population.
Experts at IMS have said that if the lockdown was not announced and physical distancing not enforced by the government, then the COVID-19 infection cases could have reached at least 35,000 by April 20.
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center’s data (of April 6, 2020) shows that due to the lockdown in India, the growth rate of COVID-19 infection has indeed slowed down. Instead of doubling of figure every four days, it is now doubling every six days.
A top government source told a renowned media house that “without the lockdown, India was looking at lakhs of cases – we have data to believe that it would’ve been an uncontrollable scenario.”
The challenge now is to drive the R0 metrics to less than 1. Once the level falls below 1, it would mean that the COVID-19 infection will not grow in India to epidemic proportions.