Categories: COVID-India's

India’s Covid crisis: what is to blame?

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India is reeling from a brand new coronavirus surge, stretching hospitals into the limit with dire shortages of beds, oxygen and drugs.

With more than 2,000 people dying each day, AFP Examines the reasons for its vicious fresh wave and why the Medical Care system is overwhelmed.

‘Herd immunity’

While the pandemic raged elsewhere at the start of 2021, in India daily illnesses slid to under 9,000 with fewer than 80 deaths.

This increased hopes that India, despite having a few of the planet’s most densely populated towns, had somehow escaped the worst.

Blood polls suggested a hefty proportion of the population might have antibodies and that India could have achieved”herd immunity”.

Other possible factors cited were India’s young people and that higher exposure to other pathogens increased resistance to the virus.

But maybe due to a new version, cases took off again in March. This month alone India has recorded more than four thousand new infections.

Cricket and Kumbh

As cases started falling in October and November, the Hindu nationalist central government and state authorities allowed most action to come back to close .

Bollywood productions resumed, extravagant weddings returned and audiences watched India thrash England at cricket at Chennai at the huge new Narendra Modi scene.

Tens of thousands of farmers participate in demonstrations against fresh agriculture legislation and people thronged spiritual festivals like Durga Puja and Dussehra.

The largest was that the Kumbh Mela at Haridwar, which between January and this week has been attended by upwards of 25 million Hindu pilgrims.

Masks and social distancing were largely forgotten, since they were at election rallies in many states. One in Kolkata watched Prime Minister Narendra Modi speech an estimated 800,000 people.

‘No demand’

But governments also failed to use the opportunity to beef up India’s chronically underfunded and hospitals’ stocks of medicines and oxygen facilities.

In early 2021 production of remdesivir was “negligible or nil” after firms were left with unwanted stockpiles, some of which expired and were destroyed, the Indian Express daily reported.

“Government had requested us to decrease production because COVID-19 cases were reducing and there wasn’t any need,” DJ Zawar, managing director of Kamla Life Science, told the paper.

“One solution to this crisis was to produce a stockpile of antiviral drugs when cases were reduced, but that didn’t occur,” said Raman Gaikwad, an specialist at Sahyadri Hospital in Pune.

Experts have long warned that India, in common with other , has a severe lack of medical oxygen, which is vital for treating serious COVID cases.

According to news website Scroll, it took until October for the government to float tenders to build oxygen units on site at 150 district hospitals. Most still aren’t up and running.

In Punjab, 290 new ventilators are lying in a warehouse, the Tribune daily reported. Hospitals have not ordered them, in part because staff weren’t trained to operate them.

Vaccine diplomacy

At the same time in a show of generosity and “vaccine diplomacy”, India was exporting tens of millions of AstraZeneca shots made domestically by the Serum Institute.

But once cases started surging, New Delhi froze exports–including to the Covax inoculation initiative for poorer countries–to prioritise India.

So far India has administered some 130 million shots and from May 1 all adults will be eligible even though stocks have been running low in some areas.

Serum, meanwhile, is warning that production will be badly affected unless the United States lifts export controls on raw materials needed to make the vaccines.

“I feel that a premature declaration of victory divides the people into a false sense of complacency,” Ramanan Laxminarayan from the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economic and Policy told AFP.



© 2021 AFP

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India’s Covid crisis: what is to blame? (2021, April 23)
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