India's Covid-19 Response Saved Over 1 Lakh Lives, Says Economic Survey 2021

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New Delhi: India's pandemic response, focused on saving lives and livelihoods, restricted the COVID-19 spread by 37 lakh cases and saved more than 1 lakh lives, as per the Economic Survey 2020-21. The pre-Budget document tabled in Parliament on Friday noted that in the absence of a potent cure, preventive vaccine; interplay of network structures in densely populated areas, and a high case fatality rate (CFR), India weighed the costs and opportunities strategically.

The limits of scientific understanding of the disease, lack of good data on the mode of spread and potency of the virus made it difficult to model the likely impact of different policy options in a reliable and timely way. To aggravate the uncertainty, it was estimated that India would have 30 crore cases and several thousand deaths by the end of May, 2020, it noted.

India imposed a strict lockdown from March 25 to May 31, 2020 to check the spread of the virus. "natural number of cases and deaths expected across countries based on their population, population density, demographics, tests conducted, and the health infrastructure, we compare these estimates with actual numbers to show that India restricted the COVID-19 spread by 37 lakh cases and saved more than 1 lakh lives," it said.

The 40-day lockdown period, it said was used to scale up the necessary medical and para-medical infrastructure for active surveillance, expanded testing, contact tracing, isolation and management of cases, and educating citizens about social distancing and masks. The lockdown provided the necessary time to put in place the fundamentals of the '5 T' strategy — Test, Track, Trace, Treat and Technology, the survey said.

As the first step towards timely identification, prompt isolation and effective treatment, higher testing was recognised as the effective strategy to limit the spread of infection, it said. At the onset of the pandemic in January, 2020, India did less than 100 COVID-19 tests per day at only one lab. However, within a year, 10 lakh tests were being conducted per day at 2,305 laboratories.

The country reached a cumulative testing of more than 17 crore in January, 2021. The sharp decline in the number of days to add the next cumulative 1 crore tests show the dedicated efforts to expand the testing infrastructure. The requisite resources of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), masks and sanitizers were also expanded at a fast pace, it said.

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