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, and has the second-highest number of confirmed cases in the world after the United States, with the number of total confirmed cases breaching the 100,000 mark on 19 May, and 1,000,000 confirmed cases on 17 July 2020. On 29 August 2020, India recorded the global highest spike in COVID-19 cases on a day with 78,761 cases surpassing the previous global highest daily spike of 77,368 cases which was recorded in the US on 17 July 2020.
India’s case fatality rate is among the lowest in the world at 2.41% as of 23 July and is steadily declining. By mid-May 2020, six cities accounted for around half of all reported cases in the country – Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Pune and Kolkata. As of 24 May 2020, Lakshadweep is the only region which has not reported a case. On 10 June, India’s recoveries exceeded active cases for the first time.
On 22 March, India observed a 14-hour voluntary public curfew at the instance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was followed by mandatory lockdowns in COVID-19 hotspots and all major cities. Further, on 24 March, the prime minister ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days, affecting the entire 1.3 billion-person population of India. On 14 April, India extended the nationwide lockdown till 3 May which was followed by two-week extensions starting 3 and 17 May with substantial relaxations. From 1 June, the government started “unlocking” the country (barring “containment zones”) in three unlock phases.
In March, after the lockdown was imposed, the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO) praised India’s response to the pandemic as ‘comprehensive and robust,’ terming the lockdown restrictions as ‘aggressive but vital’ for containing the spread and building necessary healthcare infrastructure. At the same time, the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT) noted the government’s swift and stringent actions, emergency policy-making, emergency investment in health care, fiscal stimulus, investment in vaccine and drug R&D and gave India a score of 100 for the strict response. Also in March, Michael Ryan, chief executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies programme noted that India had tremendous capacity to deal with the outbreak owing to its vast experience in eradicating smallpox and polio. Other commentators have raised concerns about the economic fallout arising as a result of the pandemic and preventive restrictions.The lockdown was justified by the government and other agencies for being preemptive to prevent India from entering a higher stage which could make handling very difficult and cause even more losses thereafter.