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Covid-19: what you need to know today


It’s January 2, 2021, the vaccine is here, and it’s time for this column to end, which started on March 19, 2020.

The Subject Matter Expert Committee (SEC) of the Central Medicines Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) has recommended that emergency use approval be granted to Covishield, the name given to the AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine by the Serum Institute of India (SII), which it is doing in India, paving the way for approval by the Comptroller General of Drugs of India (DCGI).

This approval is a mere formality. India now has a vaccine and could begin vaccinating the 300 million people in its top priority groups starting next week. He hopes to reach that goal by July.

The Covid-19 pandemic started slowly in India. The country did not record what everyone (including HT’s panel administrators) counts as their first case until early March (three returnees from Wuhan tested positive in late January, but there were no cases between then and early March). India has been under a strict lockdown since March 25, a day when it recorded 90 new cases, bringing the total to 657 cases, with 11 deaths.

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The lockdown would last for 68 days, although some restrictions were relaxed in intermediate phases, and the number of cases continued to rise through it. When it ended on May 31, the India dashboard showed a total of 190,533 cases and 5,328 deaths. The number of cases skyrocketed after that, peaking on September 10, when, according to HT’s panel, the country recorded 99,181 new cases. I remember writing then that it was only a matter of time before India started seeing at least 100,000 new cases a day.

I was wrong (fortunately)! The number of cases began to drop. Around Diwali, it seemed that India was nearing the end of its first wave; But shortly after the festival, the number of cases started to increase and I wrote about an imminent second wave. I was wrong (thankfully), again! My colleague Kunal Pradhan, who has edited more of these columns than anyone else, has kept me posted on Indian cricketers who scored hundreds of celebrities in the Test that matched the column number (he started doing this after I crossed 100 columns), and like anyone who has scored 238, I have played and missed a few times. For the benefit of those who want to know, he couldn’t recall anyone who scored 238, although Google informs me that this is the number of centuries of testing scored at Lord’s.

India’s approval of a vaccine comes even as the seven-day average of daily cases has fallen to 19,828, and the number of active cases in the country is 255,584, the lowest since July 5, according to the panel. by HT. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article that attributed this to the wearing of masks, but anyone who has traveled even briefly to rural India knows that most people do not wear masks. I took the day off on December 31 and went on a sunrise to sunset birding expedition in rural Haryana, and I can attest to this. It’s not just Haryana; On a trip to Uttarakhand in late October that took me through Uttar Pradesh, I saw that very few people in the small towns of India’s most populous state wore masks.

Read more | Key expert panel meets today to review data on Covid-19 vaccines from Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech

So why have the Indian numbers dropped? In Dispatch 226, on December 16, I put forward some theories; the truth is simply that no one really knows, but we are not complaining. If India can get its vaccination campaign up and running soon and build some momentum (campaigns in many other countries have been delayed) and if the numbers remain low (for whatever reason), the country is likely to escape a second wave. .

HT will maintain a vaccination campaign dashboard and report it from the ground, but I always told myself that this column would end the day India approves a vaccine.

The fortuitous moment of that approval, the first day of a new year that we all hope is better than the past, means that Office 238, dated January 2, will be the last edition of this column.


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