On January 30 last year, India detected its first case of novel coronavirus when a 20-year-old woman from Thrissur in Kerala, who was studying medicine in Wuhan, China, had returned home a week earlier. In the next four days, two more Kerala residents studying in China were found positive.
Exactly a year later on January 30, 2021, India has been recording less than 200 Covid deaths per day for more than a fortnight, at a time when daily fatalities have been over 500 in at least eight countries. Four of these countries have been reporting more than 1,000 daily deaths over the past few days, with the daily toll in the US hovering around 4000.
In fact, India has dropped to the fourth place in deaths from the virus, with fatalities in Mexico overtaking India’s cumulative toll. With more than 1,500 deaths reported in 24 hours, Mexico’s Covid toll topped 1,55,000, going past India’s total recorded deaths from the virus so far (1,54,184).
For India, the tumultuous period began in March 2020 when the virus spread rapidly. Within three weeks, India had to impose the most restrictive lockdown in the world; some called it the biggest lockdown in history.
Over the next few months, the infection numbers grew sharply and steadily, at one point resulting in the detection of nearly 1 lakh cases every day. India was on the verge of becoming home to the largest number of infected people in the world. More than 1,200 people were dying every day. Millions lost their jobs and livelihoods due to the lockdown.
The massive movement of migrant workers, unexpected and unplanned, added to the tragedy.
But a year later, as the epidemic continues to rage in several American and European countries, India seems to be on an irreversible path towards exit. The number of new cases has been declining steadily for over four months now, the downward progression remaining unaffected by the festival season, elections, or the easing of movement restrictions.
Meanwhile, the impact of the vaccination drive, which began two weeks ago, would not be evident for at least two more months, but it would be crucial in ensuring that the current declining trend is not reversed.
Incidentally, it’s Kerala where the pandemic continues to rage a year down the line while clearly retreating in most other parts. The threat from new strains of the virus, which are causing havoc in some other countries, also has not materialised in India.