About one in three cases of COVID-19 recorded every day in the world is now in India, where the rate of new infections is growing faster than in any other nation.
A second wave of COVID-19 infections in India has completely overwhelmed the nation’s medical infrastructure as families desperately cry out for oxygen and other life-saving supplies on social media.
In the capital of New Delhi, morgues use mass cremations to dispose of COVID victims, and in some hospitals, patients wait outside in ambulances due to a lack of internal ventilators.
Volunteers have also stepped up to help with supply issues, including India doesn’t care, a community of over 3,000 people who use social media to find everything from blood donors to oxygen and medicine.
Mohd Saqib, a 23-year-old student who was recently involved in the organization, told BuzzFeed News that requests for help are increasing every day.
“We are losing every day from our Indian family,” Saqib said. “When a person [makes a] request and then after some time we know that the same person is gone, this moment is the worst “.
In an emergency meeting chaired by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, officials agreed to divert industrial oxygen to meet immediate medical needs and to use the country’s transportation networks to get supplies to states more quickly. they need it most.
Modi also called on states to take stronger action on potential supply buildup.
India escaped the worst of COVID-19 during the first year of the pandemic. 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 when India entered 2021, it appeared to have the disease under control, as cases and deaths had declined since the peak in September.
But since March, the nation has experienced an explosive wave of infections, suspected of being driven by a new variant of the coronavirus called B.1.617. India’s National Institute of Virology reported that this variant took the lead in broadcasts, appearing in about 61 percent of cases tested in one province last week. Sometimes called the “double mutant” variant because it contains two mutations associated with increased contagion, its role in the India outbreak remains unclear due to limited medical testing for the variants there.
Now about one in three cases of COVID-19 recorded every day worldwide is in India, and the rate of new infections is growing faster than in any other nation. Around 2,000 COVID-related deaths are also recorded each day, about one sixth of the global total. But a Financial Times analysis based on cremation records suggests that many people dying from COVID-19 in India are not counted in official statistics.
With his health care system poised on the brink of collapse, Giridhar R. Babu, an epidemiologist at the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), warned that this “will not be the last wave or even the last pandemic.”
In an interview with local media, Babu said the current situation in India should be a global concern.
“If disease control is neglected in some parts of the world, every other part is at risk of importing infections,” Babu said. “We must rigorously and meticulously review the COVID situation in the country by expanding vaccination coverage.
Strong leadership and public health resources should be available to build resident systems, including stepping up epidemiological and genomic surveillance for COVID-19 to detect outbreaks. It is unrealistic to expect tangible gains without a strong focus on strengthening the health system, especially not strengthening human resource recruitment and capacity building. “
The situation in India has been partially blamed on the government, with critics, including the president of the Public Health Foundation of India, accusing the Modi administration of prematurely declaring a victory against the virus when efforts should have been poured into strengthening the medical infrastructure of the nation.
Instead, Indian electoral authorities announced key elections in five states, the country’s cricket billboard gave the green light to 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.
The escalation of the COVID-19 crisis in India is also bad news for the global effort to vaccinate people against the coronavirus. The Serum Institute of India in Pune is the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world and has been tasked with preparing 200 million initial doses of 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 the developing nations of the world.
But the launch of the domestic vaccine in India has faced difficulties, with only 1.4% of the population currently fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In late March, India suspended vaccine exports to divert supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine to its own vaccination campaign.
The Serum Institute of India has also signed an agreement to produce about one billion doses of a coronavirus vaccine developed by US company Novavax once approval is obtained. So further pressure to use the nation’s vaccine manufacturing capacity to scale up its faltering schedule will have ripple effects around the world. India also said 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 approximately 20 million doses of unused AstraZeneca vaccines that have yet to be cleared for use by the FDA. AstraZeneca said 30 million US doses would soon be ready, although the US agreed to send 4 million doses to Canada and Mexico in March. Asked about donating those AstraZeneca shares, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said Friday that the United States “will explore options” to ship excess vaccines overseas “as our confidence builds. towards our supply “. He pointed to President Joe Biden’s $ 4 billion pledge to COVAX in February as an indication of the country’s support for global vaccination.
Meanwhile, the CDC is consulting with Indian health officials and offering technical assistance, said Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“It is a terrible situation that we are trying to help in any way we can,” he said. “Obviously, they need to get their people vaccinated.”