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COVID-19 Pandemic in India: What We Saw In 2021

The year 2021 started on a good note for India, with the launch of the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination programme. But the hope for the return to normal life was shattered soon when the deadly second wave of the pandemic hit the country. As we enter 2022, here's a look back at 2021.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : December 31, 2021 1:57 PM IST

The novel coronavirus outbreak is known to have first started in Wuhan, Hubei, China, in November 2019. On 30 January 2020, the World health organisation (WHO) declared the Covid-19 outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. Since then, the virus named SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) has infected 281,808,270 people and caused 5,411,759 deaths worldwide (as reported by WHO on 29 December 2021). In India, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Thrissur, Kerala on 30 January 2020, when a medical student tested positive for the virus. By 3 February 2020, three cases were confirmed, all were medical students who had returned from Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic. Now, India's COVID-19 tally has reached 3,48,38,804 with 4,81,080 deaths, according to the Union Health Ministry data update on Friday (31 December 2021).

COVID-19 pandemic in 2021

The year 2021 started on a good noted for India, with the launch of the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination programme. But the hope for the return to normal life was shattered soon when a deadlier and more devastating wave of the pandemic hit the country. As we enter 2022, here's a look back at 2021:

Vaccination programme

India launched its vaccination programme on 16 January 2021 with two vaccines: AstraZeneca vaccine (Covishield) and the indigenous Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech. Later, Russian-made Sputnik was approved for emergency use too. India has now approved eight vaccines, including Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, ZyCoV-D vaccine, Covovax and Corbevax. However, the country is currently using only three - Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V - for its vaccination drive.

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The country has so far administered over 1.4 billion vaccine doses (1,44,54,16,714 as on 31 December 2021).

Second wave of coronavirus

The second wave of coronavirus infections reportedly started in the middle of February 2021. It is estimated that half of India's total COVID-related deaths occurred during the second wave. It also exposed the limitations of the country's health infrastructure, including shortages of vaccines, hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and other medical supplies.

Spread of the Delta variant

The delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, which was first detected in India October 2020, was said to be responsible for the deadly second wave of infections. On 11 May 2021, the WHO declared Delta a variant of concern, and said that it showed evidence of higher transmissibility and reduced neutralisation. By November 2021, it spread to over 179 countries, becoming the dominant strain globally. According to a study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Delta variant (B.1.617.2) caused 86 per cent of the breakthrough infections during the second wave.

Omicron variant detected in India

First detected on 22 November 2021 in laboratories in Botswana and South Africa, the Omicron variant, or B.1.1.529 as it's formally known, has surged around the world over the past few weeks. On 26 November 2021, WHO designated it "variant of concern".

India's first Omicron cases were detected in Bengaluru, Karnataka on December 2, when two men who had travelled to South Africa tested positive for the new variant. Total number of patients infected by the highly contagious Omicron variant in India has now crossed 1,000 mark.

India on Thursday logged 309 fresh Omicron infections (the highest single day rise of the variant), taking the total Omicron tally in the country to 1,270, the Union Health Ministry said on Friday. Of the 1,270 Omicron cases, 374 patients have either recuperated or migrated, according to the ministry's data updated at 8 am.

Omicron has spread to 23 Indian states and Union territories, with the highest number of cases reported from Maharashtra at 450, followed by Delhi (320), Kerala (109) and Gujarat (97).

India's COVID-19 tally

India's COVID-19 tally crossed one-crore mark on December 19, 2020. Then the number crossed two-crore mark on May 4, 2021, and the three-crore mark on June 23, 2021. Now, India's total number of COVID-19 cases stood at 3,48,38,804, while the number of deaths has climbed to 4,81,080, according to the Ministry data updated at 8 am Friday.

On Thursday, India's daily count of coronavirus cases crossed the 16,000 mark after 64 days. The country registered 16,764 new infections and 220 fatalities in the last 24 hours, the data stated. India had witnessed 16,156 fresh coronavirus cases on October 27 this year.

At present, there are 91,361 active cases of the infection, with the national COVID-19 recovery rate recorded at 98.36 per cent.

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