PATIENT PREDATOR

India’s deadly Covid-19 wave is a teachable moment

In Summary
  • The coronavirus is a stealthy, patient predator
  • Infections surged as citizens and their government became complacent
A general view of the mass cremation of those who died from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) at a crematorium in New Delhi, India, April 26, 2021.
A general view of the mass cremation of those who died from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) at a crematorium in New Delhi, India, April 26, 2021.
Image: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

An estimated 1,002,938,540 vaccine doses have been administered in 207 countries and territories.

However, vaccination is still the privilege of the wealthy. The richest countries, which account for only 16 per cent of the world’s population, have administered nearly 48 per cent of vaccine doses. Low-income countries account for a miserable 0.2 percent of vaccine doses.

Low vaccination rates account in part for the surge of new Covid-19 infections globally, which reached a record 897,839 last Friday, with infections in India accounting for nearly 40 percent. India’s numbers surged in four days of record peaks. Hospitals turned away patients after running out of beds and medical oxygen. Prime Minister Narendra Modi describe the surge of Covid-19 infections as a storm.

In an op-ed published in the Washington Post Ahish Jha, the Dean of Brown University School of Public Health, warned that India was on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the country will deploy additional support to the people of India and India’s health heroes. Moreover, the United Kingdom will send ventilators and oxygen concentrator devices to India.

India’s second Covid-19 wave and the humanitarian catastrophe is not a surprise. Modi’s Hindu nationalist government let its guard down. Large political gatherings by the Bharaiya Janata Party and the Kumbh Mela, Hindu religious festival, have been super spreader events after daily cases dropped below 10,000 early February.

Kenya’s third Covid-19 wave appears to be dissipating. The positivity rate has declined from about 27 percent a month ago to about 12 percent. But we must not become complacent.

PM Modi must take political and moral responsibility for failing to mobilise critical health resources in anticipation of an inevitable a second wave.

It is rather unhelpful for the Modi government to crack down on critics of its handling of the Covid-19 surge. Modi’s government directed Twitter to block at least 50 tweets that criticised the handling of the pandemic. Twitter has complied.

Demanding that Twitter blocks tweets that demand accountability and robust intervention to stem the surge of death and illness is both authoritarian and cowardly, especially when it comes from the world’s largest democracy. Modi and his government can and must do better.

Experts blame the current surge on new coronavirus variants when the government and the citizens had settled into a degree of complacency, lifted restrictions and returned to old habits. This has been compounded by dwindling vaccine inventories and a blistering shortage of oxygen in hospitals across the country.

Just three months ago India was lauded for blunting the pandemic. The 1.3-billion strong nation was also buoyed by a vaccination drive fuelled by locally made vaccines. But the coronavirus is a stealthy, patient predator. Infections surged as citizens and their government became complacent. The deadly Covid-19 surge in Michigan state in the US is also attributed to marked behaviour change following a lull in infection rates.

Kenya’s third Covid-19 wave appears to be dissipating. The positivity rate has declined from about 27 percent a month ago to about 12 percent. But we must not become complacent. The stealthy, patient predator will be lying in wait and will surely strike again, with morbidity and death.