The Union Health Ministry informed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health that the nationwide lockdown from March 25 to May 31 helped save anything between 37,000 to 78,000 lives on Tuesday.
This was the first meeting of the standing committee on health chaired by Samajwadi Party MP Ramgopal Yadav since Parliament abruptly shut on March 23. The claim comes on a day that India has for the first time added the highest number of fresh cases globally on Sunday. India’s count of 53,641 cases on the day was higher than the infections detected in U.S. at 49,038 and Brazil, 24,801.
A graded response employed by the government of India has paid off dividends, the Ministry said. Quoting projections from Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Indian Statistical Institute, Public Health Foundation of India and Boston Consulting Group, the Ministry has claimed that 14-29 lakh cases could be averted and 37,000 to 78,000 deaths could be averted.
A similar assertion was made in May by Dr V.K. Paul, the head of India’s COVID-19 task force In April, Mr Paul had also shown a statistical estimate that the fresh cases would dip to zero by May 16.
The Ministry said India has been ahead of the world in taking steps to arrest the spread of the infection. The Health Ministry in its presentation to the standing committee said that 12 days before the first case was detected in India (on January 30), the first travel advisory warning against travel to China was issued on January 12.
“Partial lockdown was imposed after 52 days at stage II with 360 active cases and complete lockdown on the 55th day. Globally most countries went for a complete lockdown only on stage III with cases ranging from 4,000 to 12,000,” the Ministry claimed.
The Health Ministry said there has been a continuous decline in growth rate of cases. At the time of Unlock 1.0 the cases were rising at the rate of 35% and by unlock 2.0 on July 31, the rate was down to 5%.
The government also sought to compare the available health infrastructure with that of the U.S., Brazil, Russia and UK. India spends the lowest percentage of it’s GDP on health infrastructure compared to these four countries and it has the lowest hospital beds per 10,000 persons ratio. COVID deaths per million India is at the very bottom of the tally. In the US this rate is 478, Brazil 443, Russia 97 and UK 680.