About one in three cases of COVID-19 recorded each day globally is now in India, where the rate of new infections is increasing faster than in any other country.
A second wave of COVID-19 infections in India has completely overwhelmed the country’s medical infrastructure as families make desperate appeals for oxygen and other life-saving supplies on social media.
In the capital of New Delhi, mortuaries use mass cremations getting rid of COVID victims and, in some hospitals, patients waiting outside in ambulances due to a lack of ventilators inside.
Volunteers also mobilized to resolve supply issues, including India cares, a community of over 3,000 people using social media to find everything from blood donors to oxygen and medicine.
Mohd Saqib, a 23-year-old student who recently became involved with the organization, told BuzzFeed News that calls for help are increasing every day.
“We are losing our Indian family daily,” Saqib said. “When a person [makes a] asks and then after a while we know that the same person is no longer, that moment is the worst. “
In one Emergency meeting Chaired by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, officials agreed to divert oxygen intended for industrial use to meet immediate medical needs and to use the country’s transportation networks to get supplies faster to states that have it. need it most.
Modi also called on states to take stronger action on the potential hoarding of supplies.
India escaped the worst of COVID-19 in the pandemic’s first year. Although the nation ranks fourth in the world for its official global death toll, behind the United States, Brazil and Mexico, its death rate was low compared to its population of nearly 1.4 billion. And as India entered 2021, the disease appeared to be under control, as cases and deaths had fallen from a high in September.
But since March, the country has seen an explosive surge in infections, suspected to be due to a new variant of the coronavirus called B.1.617. The Indian National Institute of Virology reported that this variant took an advance in transmissions, appearing in around 61% of cases tested in a province last week. Sometimes called a “double mutant” variant because it contains two mutations associated with increased contagion, its role in the epidemic in India remain unclear due to limited medical testing for the variants out there.
Today, about one in three cases of COVID-19 recorded worldwide each day is in India, and the rate of new infections is increasing faster than in any other country. Around 2,000 COVID-related deaths are also recorded there each day, about one sixth of the global total. But one Financial Times analysis based on cremation records suggest that many people dying from COVID-19 in India are not counted in official statistics.
As his health system is on the verge of collapse, Giridhar R. Babu, epidemiologist with the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), has warned that “this will not be the last wave nor the last pandemic either”.
In an interview with local average, Babu said the current situation in India should be of global concern.
“If disease control is neglected in some parts of the world, all other parts risk importing infections,” Babu said. “We need to strictly and meticulously examine the COVID situation in the country while expanding immunization coverage.
“Strong public health leadership and resources should be available to build resident systems, including strengthening epidemiological and genomic surveillance of COVID-19 to detect outbreaks. It is unrealistic to expect tangible gains without a strong focus on strengthening the health system, especially without strengthening human resource recruitment and capacity building.
The situation in India has been partially blamed on the government, with critics including the chairman of the Public Health Foundation of India, accusing Modi’s administration prematurely declared victory over the virus when efforts should have been put into strengthening the country’s medical infrastructure.
Instead, Indian election authorities announced key elections in five states, the country’s cricket council has given the green light for an international match with a stadium full of spectators, and the Hindu festival of Kumbh mela brought millions of Hindus to Haridwar for the holy occasion.
India’s growing COVID-19 crisis is also very bad news for the global effort to vaccinate people against the coronavirus. The Serum Institute of India in Pune is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer and has been tasked with do 200 million initial doses a version of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine for COVAX, a collaboration between WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which aims to bring affordable vaccines to developing countries around the world.
But the deployment of national vaccines in India has experienced difficulties, with only 1.4% of the population currently fully vaccinated against COVID-19. End of March, India has suspended vaccine exports to divert the supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine to its own vaccination campaign.
The Serum Institute of India has also signed an agreement to produce around a billion doses of a vaccine against the coronavirus developed by the American company Novavax once it has obtained its approval. Thus, additional pressure to use the country’s vaccine production capacity to bolster its own failing program will have ripple effects across the world. India also supported that US export controls on raw materials used to make vaccines will hamper its ability to meet global demand.
The United States is also under pressure to donate about 20 million doses unused AstraZeneca vaccines that have not yet been approved for use by the FDA. AstraZeneca has stated that it will soon have 30 million American doses ready, although the United States agreed to send 4 million doses in Canada and Mexico in March. Asked about donating these stocks from AstraZeneca, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said on Friday that the United States would “explore options” to ship surplus vaccines overseas ” as our confidence in our own supply increased ”. He stressed President Joe Biden $ 4 billion commitment to COVAX in February as an indication of the country’s support for global immunization.
Meanwhile, the CDC is consulting with Indian health officials and offering technical assistance, said Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“It is a dire situation that we are trying to help in any way we can,” he said. “Obviously, they need to vaccinate their people.”