The journey from a deadly virus to a vaccine has surely been the story of our lifetime. A highly infectious fast-spreading virus once got on a flight from Wuhan, China, set out to the rest of the world, and what happened next is certainly history.
Back on December 31st, 2019, the WHO office in China was inundated with reports regarding an unfamiliar virus behind a cluster of pneumonia cases. The origin of it was said to be in an animal market in Wuhan in November. As a result of which the market was discreetly shut down.
Later, on 7th of January, 2020 the Chinese officials declared how they had identified the virus as ‘2019-ncov’. Xi Jinping, in his speech, that he publicly made, said that all along China had acted with “openness, transparency, and responsibility” concerning with providing all the necessary information about this mysterious disease to the World Health Organization.
The reports had however not predicted it would wreak such massive havoc and bring the entire world to a collective standstill. Who would have really thought something that surfaced in a small community, would later grow to be a life-threatening global pandemic? So much so that, almost half of the humanity was under lockdown.
On January 11, China reported its first death case in Wuhan. By 23, it isolated Wuhan and its neighbouring cities from the remainder of the world in an attempt to stamp out the outbreak. What followed were deafening silences and emptiness on the streets and in the lives of people. With thousands of people stuck there, many countries including India airlifted its citizens out of China.
India reported its first case on January 30 – a Kerala man who had returned from Wuhan. A large number of known cases in February, outside China, were on the cruise ship Diamond Princess, which was shortly quarantined; docked in the Tokyo bay in Yokohama border, it harboured the virus, with 3711 people on board. Around 700 people contracted the disease, and it claimed about 14 lives.
On February 11, the WHO named it as the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Thereafter, an increased incidence of COVID-19 cases was seen in Europe. While France became the first country to report a death outside Asia, Italy became the epicentre, especially in Milan and then in the Lombardy region.
By the end of February, the United States reported its first death and Brazil its first case. Italy, Spain, France, Britain were amongst the first nations which went into lockdown. The consumers got into the mode of panic buying and sacked all the groceries they could, stripping the supermarket shelves bare.
On March 11, Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO proclaimed that COVID-19 could be “characterized as a pandemic.” He said, “we’re deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction.”
The US that had already closed its borders to China, shut down to most of Europe as well. The then President Donald Trump even declared a national emergency under the pretext of unleashing “the full power of the federal government” in the aggravating circumstances.
The world saw the Olympics and Paralympic games been delayed for the first-time during peacetime to “safeguard the health of the athletes and everybody involved,” as said by Thomas Bach, the IOC Chief.
India reported its first death on March 12. Shortly after, all the domestic flights were grounded. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day lockdown from 25th of March. It was later extended till May 3rd due to the cases surging higher.
With businesses shutting down and unemployment soaring, the migrant workers fled towards their hometowns, most of whom covering hundreds of kilometres on foot. By mid-April, about 3.9 billion people were living under a lockdown of some form.
The hospitals stretched to their limits becoming a new “war-zone”, while the health and sanitation workers were struggling in such difficult times trying to grapple the coronavirus. Schools, colleges were closed. From shops, markets, malls to theatres, cinema halls, restaurants and bars, anything and everything shut down. Commercial airlines and other businesses went severely downhill. Work from home became the new normal.
The US became the worst-hit nation. And by August India overtook Brazil to become the second-most affected country.
Unsurprisingly, the global economy was sorely shattered. Gita Gopinath, Chief Economist, IMF, said, “we are projecting global growth in 2020 to fall to minus three per cent.” She further added, “this makes the great lockdown the worst recession since The Great Depression.”
The world suffered a great loss and is truly scarred beyond imagination. It is continuing to battle its way out of this humanitarian crisis.
Britain was the first nation to approve a vaccine- the Pfizer-BioNTech. Later, Russia approved its Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine. Vaccination also began in the USA, UAE among a few other countries.
India, now, has gotten its grip on the Wuhan Coronavirus. The cases have fallen to the lowest since June 2020. Back when the New York-based Foreign Affairs magazine predicted a “catastrophe in India,” and the Boston Review called India’s response to COVID-19 “a humanitarian disaster,” one couldn’t have simply forecast India could come such a long way, sprinting towards a better tomorrow.
As we speak India is also driving the world’s largest vaccination programme. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Today, India is ready to save humanity with two ‘Made in India’ COVID-19 vaccines,” namely Covaxin and Covishield. With over 28 lakh healthcare workers and nearly 5 lakh beneficiaries vaccinated as on January 28, 2021, India is rigorously fighting against the pandemic. India plans to vaccinate about 300 million people by the end of July 2021.
Even in such desperate times, India is not only vaccinating her own but nursing to the needs of her neighbouring nations as well. India gifted lakhs of vaccines to Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal along with a few other countries.
All the recipient nations including the WHO also lauded India’s vaccine diplomacy. Here’s what Dr Lotay Tshering, Prime Minister of Bhutan had to say, “It is of unimaginable value when precious commodities are shared even before meeting your own needs, as opposed to giving out only after you have enough.”
India is also looking forward to donating its vaccines to Afghanisthan and Sri Lanka next. The demand for India’s vaccine goes beyond SAARC nations and the subcontinent; Brazil and Morocco received the vaccine shipments under a commercial agreement. 2 million doses were sent to each of them. The jabs will cover health care and other frontline workers, plus the ones who are most vulnerable.
Did you know? India is home to the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer- The Serum Institute of India. And, the Indian vaccine is largely sought for, because they are not only cost-effective but also safe.
However, the prevalent inoculation drive does not suggest the total eradication of the COVID-19. All of us still need to be vigilant and follow the safety protocols like washing hands, wearing masks, maintaining social distancing strictly.