COVID has changed the world like never before. The World has never witnessed an epidemic of such gigantic proportions at least in modern times, where almost 100 million people have been infected, more than 2 million have lost their lives, Millions have lost their jobs. Economies across the World shattered and an environment of uncertainty gripped the world.
On January 30, 2020, India confirmed its first coronavirus case in Kerala. Initially, the response was lackluster as nobody knows anything about this virus. Even until the beginning of March, we Indians were not paying much attention to the virus and its after effects.
The government had taken note of news trickling in from China about a new disease that had resulted in acute respiratory infections and activated the Joint Monitoring Group to keep track of developments. By the time India announced a nation-wide lockdown on March 24, India had reported 536 cases in several states, including Delhi, Telangana, and Rajasthan, and 10 deaths.
By that time, we had a barrage of information that it has become extremely difficult to keep up with new developments. India, which is still called a 3rd world country by ‘few’ Armchair Intellectuals, was heavily dependent on Western Countries and China for imports of ventilators , masks , PPE kits and even testing kits as we were not manufacturing these stuffs.
All we had were few instructions like washing our hands regularly, wearing a mask and practicing social distancing to prevent the infection of COVID. These preventive measures have become a way of life now, but it wasn’t like this, as we can all remember. We also remember almost all epidemiologists declaring doomsday for India. Some even predicting million deaths per day based on some “scientific model”. Such misleading news was acting like an insult to the injury for us, and creating panic among the citizens.
How India clinched the ‘Mother of All Turnarounds‘?
India struck hard by the COVID tsunami, initially, the impact was less, but gradually it was increasing like anything and in a couple of months, India became the second most impacted Nation. There was a lack of healthcare infrastructure and expertise. Amid such a gloomy environment, India took few steps which helped it to clinch a massive turnaround in a short span of 6-8 months.
Improvement in Healthcare Infrastructure
The pandemic has improved India’s health infrastructure by pushing both the government and private sector to incur unplanned expenditure on COVID-19 related services. Modi government spent more than ₹300 crore only on hospital equipment, whereas the private hospitals invested in large volumes of essential medical supplies and restructured hospital infrastructure to create isolation and quarantine facilities.
The central government has taken over 205 healthcare facilities for covid-19 treatment, including hospitals under the ministries of AYUSH, coal, defense, human resource development, home affairs, power, shipping, railways, and steel, besides those operated by the departments of atomic energy and heavy industry, and the Employees’ State Insurance Corp. (ESIC).
All the hospitals have undergone infrastructural changes as per covid-19 treatment requirements, including social distancing, isolation, and quarantine facilities. Besides, all central government-run hospitals across 17 states have become dedicated covid-19 hospitals, having adopted major changes.
Covid-19 led to make massive investments for new equipment, air conditioning and introduction of Hepa (high-efficiency particulate air) filters. ICUs and CCUs had to be rearranged to address the distance requirements,
The massive increase in COVID testing facilities
When COVID struck us in January 2020, we had only a single Testing facility in India. Within a span of few months, this capacity has been increased and India’s testing capacity has touched 15 lakh per day ensuring easily accessible COVID-19 tests for all.
The cumulative testing figure has reached around 18 Crore 49 lakh citizens to date. The Central Government and ICMR have scaled up the testing infrastructure in a calibrated manner.
Manufacturing of PPE Kits, Surgical equipments and Ventilators
India took less than a year to become self-reliant in the manufacture of medical devices, personal protective equipment (PPE), and ventilators and moving a step ahead with strengthening the global supply chain by ensuring quality, according to industry experts.
From almost none last year, now nearly 1,700 indigenous manufacturers and suppliers have been registered on the government e-marketplace. These Indian companies are specialized in the manufacturing of PPE kits, immunity boosters, face masks, face shields, immunity boosters, and sanitizers.
From zero production of PPE before March, India has created the capacity to produce more than 500,000 PPE kits daily. Before the outbreak of covid-19, there were only 20 firms manufacturing 6.2 million PPE kits per year, but within two-three months, the number of manufacturers increased to 140 with 257.5 million annual capacity.
In the case of personal protective equipment (PPE), India has now become the world’s second-largest manufacturer from a miniscule domestic production capacity in March.
Similarly, the number of Indian firms manufacturing ventilators went up from 8 to 17 and that of mask manufacturers from 30 to 128.
Modi Government rolled out Production Linked Incentive Scheme for Pharma and Medical industry
In March, the Centre rolled out the production-linked incentive scheme for bulk drugs and medical devices. Since then, 215 applications from 83 bulk drug makers and 28 applications from 23 medical device manufacturers were received. The government’s plan to set up bulk drug parks and the PLI scheme will help promote self-reliance in active pharmaceutical ingredients and key starting materials, the raw material for drugs
There were only three suppliers of N-95 masks with a production capacity of less than 1 lakh masks per day. Now over 3,000 manufacturers and suppliers, including 1,509 BIS-certified ones, of N-95 masks are already registered on the government portal and the domestic production capacity has risen to more than 8 lakh per day.
The ministry underlined that all public health facilities in the country had only around 16,000 ventilators from the Independence till pre-COVID times. But in less than 12 months, 36,433 ‘Make in India’ ventilators have been supplied to all the public health facilities.
Here it is important to note that India is also exporting all these items to other countries in large quantities. We have created a ‘New Capability’ along with a ‘New Market’ for us.
R&D and supply of COVID Vaccine
Initially, Modi Government announced a Rs 900 crore stimulus towards research and development of the Covid-19 vaccine, while also assuring that funds will be provided according to the requirement for the cost of the vaccine and logistics requirement as well in the future.
There are five front-running vaccine candidates in India currently under development by Bharat Biotech, Serum Institute of India, Zydus Cadila, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, and Biological E in India.
Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech have launched their COVID vaccines and since then Ninety-two countries have approached India for Covid-19 vaccines, bolstering New Delhi’s credentials as the vaccine hub of the world. Scores of countries are approaching India, as the word spreads that Indian vaccines are showing negligible side-effects.
Bharat Biotech is also testing its Intranasal COVID vaccine, which can be administered to kids and adults both. This is a unique sort of vaccine, which nobody else is making at this point of time.
Vaccine Diplomacy and rise of India’s Global Stature
India will give millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine to South Asian countries in the next few weeks, government sources said, drawing praise from the country’s neighbours and pushing back against China’s dominating presence in the region.
Free shipments of AstraZeneca’s vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest producer of vaccines, have begun arriving in the Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal.
India is also sending vaccines to several neighboring countries including Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar. Here it is important to note that India for years has struggled to match the pace of Chinese investment in countries such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, and the Maldives, where China is building ports, roads, and power stations as part of its Belt and Road Initiative.
However, with the Vaccine diplomacy, We are pretty much sure that India will make a lot many friends and it will help India to attain a mercurial rise on the global stage. We will be a 10 Trillion USD economy (Nominal) by 2030.