2021-04-25 01:25:37 Second COVID-19 Wave Overwhelms India
Second COVID-19 Wave Overwhelms India
Approximately one in every three COVID-19 cases reported each day in the world is now in India, where the rate of new infections is increasing faster than in any other country.
Posted at 6:27 p.m. ET on April 23, 2021.
A second wave of COVID-19 infections in India has completely overwhelmed the country’s medical infrastructure, with families pleading on social media for oxygen and other life-saving supplies.
Morgues in New Delhi’s capital city are using mass cremations to dispose of the bodies of COVID victims. Due to a lack of ventilators inside some hospitals, patients are being transported outside in ambulances.
Volunteers have also stepped up to assist with the supply issues, including India Cares, 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 recently became involved with the organization, told BuzzFeed News that the number of requests for assistance is growing by the day.
“We are losing members of our Indian family on a daily basis,” Saqib said. “When a person [makes a] request and then we discover after some time that the same person is no longer alive, this is the worst moment.”
Officials agreed at an emergency meeting chaired by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to divert oxygen intended for industrial use to meet immediate medical needs and to use the country’s transportation networks to get supplies to states that need them the most quickly.
Modi also urged states to take stronger action against potential supply hoarding.
During the first year of the pandemic, India avoided the worst of COVID-19. Despite ranking fourth in the world in terms of official global death toll, trailing only the United States, Brazil, and Mexico, the country’s death rate was low in comparison to its population of nearly 1.4 billion people. And, as India entered 2021, the disease appeared to be under control, with cases and deaths falling from a peak in September.
However, the country has seen an increase in infections since March, which is thought to be caused by a new variant of the coronavirus known as B.1.617. According to India’s National Institute of Virology, this variant has taken the lead in transmissions, appearing in approximately 61 percent of tested cases in one province last week. It’s sometimes referred to as the “double mutant” variant because it contains two mutations linked to increased contagion; its role in India’s outbreak is unknown due to limited medical testing for variants in the country.
India now accounts for approximately one-third of all COVID-19 cases reported globally each day, and the rate of new infections is increasing faster than in any other country. Every day, about 2,000 COVID-related deaths are recorded there, accounting for roughly one-sixth of the global total. However, according to a Financial Times analysis based on cremation records, many people dying of COVID-19 in India are not being counted in official statistics.
With India’s healthcare system on the verge of collapse, Giridhar R. Babu, an epidemiologist with the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), warned that this “will not be the last wave, nor will it be the last pandemic.”
Babu told local media that the current situation in India should be a global concern.
“If disease control is neglected in some parts of the world, every other part of the world risks importing the infections,” Babu explained. “We must conduct a thorough and meticulous review of the country’s COVID situation while expanding vaccine coverage.
“Strong public health leadership and resources should be available to build resident systems, including stronger epidemiological and genomic surveillance for COVID-19 outbreak detection. It is unrealistic to expect tangible gains in the absence of a strong focus on health system strengthening, particularly on human resource recruitment and capacity building.”
SEARCH FOR OXYGEN SHANTI MUKUND HOSPITAL’s supply has run out. When the oxygen saturation of 12 patients on ventilators began to fall, panicked staff rushed in with oxygen cylinders to save them. There are 120 Covid patients here, with more than 20 in the intensive care unit. It’s a desperate situation. This situation necessitates immediate attention.
The situation in India has been blamed in part on the government, with critics, including the president of the PHFI, accusing Modi’s administration of prematurely declaring victory against the virus when efforts should have been directed toward strengthening the country’s medical infrastructure.
Instead, India’s election authorities announced key elections in five states, the country’s cricket board approved an international match with a stadium packed with spectators, and the Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela drew millions 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 world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, and it was tasked with producing an initial 200 million doses of an Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for COVAX, a collaboration between the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, aimed at bringing affordable vaccines to the world’s developing nations.
However, India’s domestic vaccine rollout has been hampered, with only 1.4 percent of the population currently fully immunized against COVID-19. India halted vaccine exports in late March to divert supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine to its own vaccination campaign.
The Serum Institute of India has also agreed to produce approximately a billion doses of a coronavirus vaccine developed by the US company Novavax if it is approved. As a result, additional pressure to use the country’s vaccine-making capacity to boost its own faltering program will have global ramifications. India has also claimed that US export controls on raw materials used to manufacture vaccines will make it difficult for it to meet global demand.
The United States is also under pressure to donate approximately 20 million doses of unused AstraZeneca vaccines that have not yet been approved for use by the FDA. AstraZeneca stated that 30 million US doses would be ready soon, despite the fact that the US agreed to send 4 million doses to Canada and Mexico in March. When asked about donating the AstraZeneca stocks, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said on Friday that the US would “explore options” for shipping excess vaccines overseas “as our confidence in our own supply grows.” He cited President Joe Biden’s $4 billion pledge to COVAX in February as evidence of the United States’ support for global vaccination.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is consulting with Indian health officials and providing technical assistance, according to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“It’s a dire situation, and we’re doing everything we can to help,” he said. “They obviously need to get their people vaccinated.”