22 April 2021   2 comments

India recorded 315,000 COVID deaths on Thursday, [I apologize–the number only refers to the number of cases, not deaths. I apologize for the error in the initial post] the highest number of cases for any country since the pandemic began last year. For a while, it appeared as if India was weathering the storm quite well. but in recent weeks the number of cases and deaths have exploded. The Guardian reports:

“The blindspots in India’s response to its second, devastating wave of coronavirus infections serve as a stark warning to other countries.

“In retrospect it was clear that the figures for new infections that India was reporting in January and February were probably too good to be true, with a country of more than 1.3 billion people seeing its caseload drop from its first peak last year of over 100,000 cases a day to under 10,000.

“Then, it was reported in terms of being almost miraculous.

“As Jishnu Das, a health economist at Georgetown University in the US, told NPR in early February: ‘It’s not that India is testing less or things are going underreported. It’s been rising, rising – and now suddenly, it’s vanished! I mean, hospital ICU utilisation has gone down. Every indicator says the numbers are down.’

“Except it had not vanished. The reasons for that illusion are likely to take years to unpick, but it is clear that India’s surveillance of the virus missed its real prevalence earlier this year, even at a point when people were celebrating its decline, until it was too late.”

This second surge is stunning in both numbers and in the character of the victims which seem to be much younger than in other states. The ramifications of this trend in one of the most populous countries in the world as well as one of the most sophisticated biotechnology economies are deeply troubling. The Economist explains:

“This horrifying second wave is a catastrophe not only for India but for the world. Allowing the virus to circulate unchecked increases the risk that dangerous new strains will emerge. One worrying variant first detected in India, called the ‘double mutant’, has already been found in several other countries, including America and Britain. Even as scientists labour to understand how big a threat it poses, more variants are appearing.

“A more immediate consequence of India’s second wave for the rest of the world is a disruption to vaccine supplies. India had hoped to be the world’s pharmacy. But with case numbers exploding the government has restricted exports of vaccines. In the first half of April India shipped just 1.2m doses abroad, compared with 64m in the three prior months. The Serum Institute of India, a private company that manufactures the AstraZeneca vaccine, has defaulted on commitments to Britain, the European Union and covax, a scheme to supply more shots worldwide. African countries that had been counting on India to provide them with vaccines are looking on in dismay.”

Hospitals are overwhelmed and oxygen supplies are running low. Many are blaming the government for not following strict pandemic guidelines. In particular, there are elections scheduled in the next few weeks, and many packed rallies have been held without adequate safety precautions:

“And with repeated claims of underreporting of deaths, the real toll may already be a lot higher. India’s medical infrastructure, from tests to hospital beds to medicine and the supply of oxygen, is creaking under the weight of cases. Srivastava’s desperate appeals were only one among thousands of users flooding social media, begging for desperately needed help. In the worst-hit state of Maharashtra, one man drove his ailing father around for 24 hours, crisscrossing states over hundreds of miles, in search of a bed.

“Amid this catastrophe, Modi has been concentrating not on the pandemic but on politics—and has been mostly absent. Modi has been campaigning for his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the regional elections in West Bengal. In the last two weeks, the prime minister has held nine major campaign rallies with tens of thousands of supporters. Well-masked and distanced outdoor events are low risk for COVID-19 spread, but these are anything but that; supporters are pressed together and largely maskless. As a Stanford University study showed of Donald Trump’s rallies last summer, Modi’s gatherings are likely to have been major spreading events. Modi’s closest aide, Home Minister Amit Shah, has been even more brazen: Apart from crowded rallies, Shah has been crisscrossing West Bengal in massive roadshows, with supporters jampacking the streets and an unmasked Shah smiling and waving at them from an open truck. Not surprisingly, infections have shot up in the state, from 1,274 daily new cases on April 1 to 8,419 on Sunday. While all other main political rivals have either canceled or curtailed their campaigns, Modi and Shah have continued.

“Apart from its own rallies, the Modi government decided to allow millions of Hindus to gather for the Kumbh Mela, a major Hindu pilgrimage, in the city of Haridwar. The Uttarakhand state government even published front-page advertisements in newspapers with Modi’s face at the top “welcoming” devotees. Without any social distancing and few COVID-19 protocols being observed, devotees gathered, and within five days, more than 2,000 infections were recorded in the city, forcing Modi to ‘request‘ devotees to curtail the festivities.

India thus joins the list of countries that have failed to respond adequately to the pandemic–the US and Brazil also botched their responses. But India has 1.4 billion people and many in the world rely on its scientific expertise to address the pandemic. India’s tragedy is also the world’s tragedy.

Posted April 22, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

2 responses to “22 April 2021

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  1. It should be noted that it is 315,000 cases, not deaths that were reported on Thursday, still very scary but not as terrifying as more than a quarter million deaths would be.

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