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India Gasping for Breath after Bungled Response

Pakistan’s eastern neighbour is paying dearly for Modi’s premature and arrogant claims of victory over Covid-19.

India has become exhibit of how not to trifle with Covid-19 for political, religious, or patriotic reasons. Within weeks of the politically motivated public narrative taking root that India had conquered covid-19, the deadly epidemic has staged a comeback, deluging the public health system and mowing down thousands on a daily basis.

India has become the focal point of international concern and an epicenter of the global pandemic breaking daily infection records. Be it poor or rich, the current surge is treating them all the same. As the pandemic surges, the Indian nation is blaming the government for failing to perform.

It was just in February, a few months back, when Coronavirus cases in India went down leaving Indian healthcare workers and epidemiologists puzzled and at the same time untroubled with manageable demand for ventilators.

Unfortunately, however, the spike in Covid-19 cases turned so steep that it almost looks vertical now. The healthcare system has reached its limit, each day the deaths are breaking records and crematoriums are running their furnaces around the clock in some cities.

Heartbreaking stories on social media speak of bodies heaped in makeshift crematoriums, patients gasping for breath dying in hospitals, shortage of and black-marketing in medicines, and so forth. With record infection figures and deaths every day, experts caution these numbers do not reflect the full quantum of devastation.

Amid this pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi technically jeopardized the world’s second-largest population as all the restrictions were lifted virtually. Large group gatherings were conducted, massive political rallies were held, and a religious festival was arranged which was attended by tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims.

The presence of new variants in India has also been reported, although it is far from clear how far have any of these contributed to the devastation. However, the Indian state of Punjab has reported the variant B.1.1.7 dominant, first identified in the United Kingdom, which is 40 to 70% more contagious and lethal, studies revealed. The variant B.1.617, referred to as “double mutant” attributing to its two key mutations found in highly infectious strains, reportedly dominates the state of Maharashtra.

As per CNN reports, one side of government hospitals has people dead and living Covid-19 patients laying side by side in small rooms filled with more than its capacity, the other side of the same hospital has a peaceful queue of people waiting to get Coronavirus vaccine. From May 1, India has started to make the Covid-19 vaccine available to anyone above 18.

The world has stepped up to help India considering its own government’s utter failure to deal with the outbreak. Pakistan’s Edhi foundation offered a fleet of 50 ambulances and its staff to help manage the crisis. Oxygen-related material was dispatched by Singapore, Germany, and the United Kingdom. China offered to help and France, Russia, and Australia have promised to send medical aid.

India is also expecting oxygen and medicine support from the European Union and some additional staff and supplies from World Health Organization.

United States – earlier criticized for hoarding vaccine and maintaining restriction on vaccine export through policies announced to send raw vaccine materials, ventilators, personal protective equipment, oxygen-related supplies, and therapeutic medicines to India.

Individuals and countries are sending millions of dollars in Covid relief but the aid is not reaching the deserving because of systemic roadblocks like red tape, human error, and time-consuming protocol in the country where thousands are dying every day due to the shortage of what is already there but out of their reach.

In short, a nuclear India seems helpless in the clutches of the catastrophic Covid-19 outbreak, its response marred by shortage of beds in hospitals, shortage of oxygen, shortage of medical officials, inept political leadership, and an archaic bureaucracy among other factors.

Now, it is easily predicted that the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is inevitable in India, also warned by experts.

“A phase three is inevitable, given the higher levels of circulating virus”, says Vijay Raghavan, the principal scientific adviser of the Indian government. “But it is not clear on what time scale this phase three will occur.”

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