ON March 24, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the nationwide lockdown, the Covid count around the world was truly alarming. The US had reported 52,690 cases and 681 deaths; Italy 69,176 cases and 6,820 deaths and Germany 27,436 cases and 114 deaths. India, at that time, had 519 cases and 10 deaths. As the country shut down, the impact was felt all across—essential supplies began to run short, hundreds of thousands of daily wagers lost their livelihood sources and healthcare services for other illnesses were disrupted. All the while, the Covid count continued to rise.
Today, India’s Covid tally might be the third highest in the world, but given the size of the country and its population, this was perhaps unavoidable. However, our gains from fighting the pandemic are quite a few: improved hospital infrastructure across the country, standardised hospital protocols for Covid cases, greater public awareness about Covid prevention norms, and a better understanding of how the virus attacks the body. The lockdown gave state administrations and our health apparatus time to prepare for the long haul that this battle promises to be. “In March, we were struggling to make sense of Covid—how to treat patients, how to organise beds [for them] and how to protect our staff. To start with, our healthcare system was never on its feet. We began on our knees and are now standing tall,” says J.C. Passey, who was the medical director of the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan (LNJP) Hospital, Delhi’s largest Covid facility, in the initial months of the pandemic.
India’s real success against Covid lies in the number of lives that have been saved. At 66.31 per cent as on August 4, the country has one of the highest recovery rates in the world, while our doubling rate for Covid has increased to 21 days, from 3.4 days when the lockdown was announced in March. The fatality rate of 2.1 per cent, as on August 4, is the lowest since the Covid outbreak.
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August 17, 2020