(Representational Image)
(Representational Image)

A Right to Information (RTI) inquiry has reportedly revealed the fact that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had alerted India regarding the onset of the novel coronavirus in China's Wuhan as early as January 11.

According to a report, the RTI was filed by Jammu resident Rohit Chaudhary, who sought to know "the date when the Government of India first received information on the Covid19/Coronavirus/Wuhan Virus/China Virus."

The RTI query was answered by National Centre for Disease Control (DCDC), which stated in its reply that Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia in New Delhi, had alerted Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan, in an e-mail on January 11, regarding the "novel coronavirus circulating in Wuhan".

The report quotes an excerpt from Dr. Singh's mail to the Union Health Minister, which reads as such: "I am writing to alert Your Excellency on the novel coronavirus circulating in Wuhan, China. As you may know, this causes severe pneumonia. Thus far, fifty-nine (59) cases in total have been detected in Wuhan city as of 5 January through case finding and retrospective investigations. One death has been reported today, six of these cases are reported to be in severe condition, the remaining 52 cases are stable. The reported dates of onset range between 12-29 December 2019."

The RTI reply, however, goes on to add that the e-mail had mentioned human-to-human transmission was not yet evident back then. Still, ut was said that "the situation may evolve rapidly".

The first case of COVID-19 in India was reported on January 30 in Kerala, of a student returning from Wuhan. The transmissions grew by several counts in March after people with travel history to COVID-19 affected country tested positive for coronavirus.

Several activists have also raised questions on the logic behind the Namaste Trump event, a hughly-publicised tour of India by US President Donald Trump on February 24-25, which culminated in a rally in Gujarat's Ahmedabad, attended by more than one lakh people at a time when the threat of COVID-19 wasn't that distant either.

On March 22, India observed a 14-hour voluntary public curfew at the insistence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was followed by mandatory lockdowns in COVID-19 hotspots and all major cities. Eventually, from March 24 onwards, the prime minister ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days, affecting the entire 1.3 billion-person population of India.

On April 14, India extended the nationwide lockdown till May 3 which was followed by two-week extensions starting May 3 and 17 with substantial relaxations. From 1 June, the government started "unlocking" the country (barring "containment zones") in three unlock phases.

At the time of writing this article, India's cases have crossed 7.78 million, while more than 117,000 people have died of coronavirus in the country.

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