In March 2020, India announced one of the most stringent country-wide lockdowns in the world to combat Covid-19, the epidemic that was beginning to sweep across nations. A year later, Covid-19 threat is far from over and several countries, including India, are experiencing another spike in the number of infections.
But instead of the fear factor which led to a lockdown last year, India seems to be confident of tackling another potential spread, a reason why Uttarakhand chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat decided to go ahead with the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar - a religious congregation of thousands of devotees - after abiding by the Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) prescribed by the Centre.
While the risk of a potential surge of Covid-19 cases is very much there, the decision to allow mass gatherings (elections in five states of the country are also leading to such gatherings) explains what has changed in terms of the understanding of the disease, strengthening of the diagnostic and treatment infrastructure, development of vaccines and its administration to targeted high-risk groups in India in the last one year.
Here are five things that have changed in the last one year:
- In March 2020, India had 57 laboratories that can do Covid-19 testing through Real Time PCR (RTPCR) Platform. Another 56 laboratories were permitted to collect samples (swabs & viral transport media) and facilitate their transport to the testing centres. Today there are 2,425 laboratories in the country that conduct Covid-19 testing. Of which, 545 government laboratories and 844 private laboratories conduct RTPCR tests. There are 900 testing facilities that use TrueNat platform and 132 centers that conduct CBNAAT (cartridge-based nucleic acid amplification test) tests.
- India had a total of 4,058 samples tested for Covid-19 until March 6, 2020. On March 21, 2021 alone India tested 8,80,655 samples. Overall Covid-19 tests conducted in the last one year stood at 23,44,45,774.
- In March 2020, India did not have any vaccines for Covid-19. Today India has given emergency use approval for two vaccines - Covaxin and Covishield. A total of 4,50,65,998 frontline and healthcare workers, senior citizens and people above 45 with co-morbidity have already been vaccinated with these two vaccines.
- In March 2020, India had asked all alcohol distilleries to manufacture sanitisers, states were asked to waive of 300 percent excise duty on ethanol for the purpose. Today, there is oversupply of sanitisers and distilleries no longer find it a strong business proposition.
- In March 2020, India had banned exports of medical clothing and face masks. Since then, the ban has been lifted. Even the most sought after N-95 masks can be freely exported.