The COVID-19 pandemic became one of the worst things that ever happened in India. It caused over 3 million deaths throughout the nation and left a mark on the economy that would take a few years to heal.
The COVID-19 pandemic, also known as the coronavirus pandemic, is an ongoing global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
The novel virus was first identified during an outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Attempts to contain it there failed, allowing the virus to spread worldwide.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020 and a pandemic on 11 March 2020. As of 20 April 2022, the pandemic had caused more than 506 million cases and 6.2 million deaths across the whole world, making it one of the deadliest in history.
COVID-19 in India
India being the 2nd most populous country in the whole world had a huge rise in the number of COVID-19 cases making it the second-worst affected country in the whole world only after the USA.
Let’s analyze the trends in COVID-19 cases in India. The dataset we would be using for our analysis can be found here. This dataset needs to be cleaned before we can make any accurate-ish analysis from it. I have made a Kaggle notebook that goes through the whole data-cleaning part, so check it out if you are interested in it!.
Daily Cases in India
If we plot the number of COVID-19 cases India got per day throughout 2020 and 2021 on a graph, this is what it would look like.
From the graph above it is evident that India saw two significant waves of COVID-19. The first one started around July 2020, peaked in September 2020, and died off by January 2021. The second wave started around March 2021, peaked in May 2021, and died off by July 2021. Let’s plot the covid cases for each wave.
Data deduced from the graph of the first wave in 2020 –
- Maximum number of daily cases – 97,894
- Maximum number of daily deaths – 2,003
- Total number of cases – 10,274,196
- Total number of deaths – 148,713
- Duration – 8 months (June 2020 to January 2021)
Data deduced from the graph of the first wave in 2021 –
- Maximum number of daily cases – 414,188
- Maximum number of daily deaths – 6,148
- Total number of cases – 21,827,251
- Total number of deaths – 280,415
- Duration – 4 months (April 2020 to July 2021)
From the data above, it’s evident that the second wave was far more deadly than the first wave. It affected twice the number of people compared to the first wave in half the duration. The second wave was much more deadly than the first wave for a multitude of reasons.
The three big reasons that are brought up a lot are –
- A stronger variant of COVID-19.
- The decline of the first wave.
- Legislative elections in 4 states and 1 Union Territory of India.
A stronger variant of COVID-19
The first COVID-19 wave in India was caused by the α (alpha) variant. But in late 2020, a stronger variant of COVID-19 (also known as the δ (delta) variant) was first detected in India and is thought to be partly responsible for the second deadly wave of COVID-19 in India. This variant then spread to the whole world bringing in a global second wave of COVID-19.
This variant had mutations that made it more transmissible and more resistant to antibodies. It is considered 40-60% more transmissible than the α variant and almost two times as transmissible as the original Wuhan strain.
The decline of the first wave
The first COVID-19 wave in India reached its peak in September 2020, and then gradually declined by January 2021.
When the first wave of COVID-19 hit India, everyone got alarmed and took a lot of precautions to avoid spreading the virus. And this initiative was kind of success because –
- The COVID-19 cases for the first wave saw a gradual increase instead of a steep one.
- The cases didn’t reach as high as the second wave.
In February of 2021, India only had a total of around 372k cases. This might sound like a huge number but if you compare it to the peak of the first wave in September 2020, which had a total of 2.6 million cases you can probably say that the first wave was nearly dead by February 2021.
And that’s exactly what most of the people in India and the government thought. Because of the drastic decline in the number of COVID-19 cases, people probably got a little too comfortable with the pandemic. This led to not taking the safety precautions seriously, which in turn led to the mass spreading of the virus. So when a new and stronger variant spread throughout the country, it had worse effects than the first wave.
But this reason by itself doesn’t seem to be the sole reason for such a big second wave. There must have been some catalyst. And this catalyst was the Legislative elections of 2021.
In the year 2021, India had Legislative elections in 4 states and 1 Union Territory in the months of March and April. And can you guess in which months the second wave of COVID-19 began? March and April…
The elections were in the states of Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Puducherry. The combined population of all 5 regions in 2021 stands at around 250 million, about 1/5th of India’s population.
Legislative elections provide an ideal method for the virus’ transmission, as they require a huge part of the population’s direct participation. Election rallies, campaigns, and election day, all attract a massive crowd of people for all sorts of activities.
Due to these elections, the COVID-19 protocols were lifted to allow for election campaigning and economic activities. Because of this India opened up a bit at a time it shouldn’t have. The spread of a new strain added to this. One thing led to another and India ended up having another wave of COVID-19.
- Dataset for Analysis – https://www.kaggle.com/datasets/sudalairajkumar/covid19-in-india