How India failed to prevent the deadly second wave

In early March, Indian Health Minister Hirschwaldan declared the country “late” in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Barudan also praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership as a “world model for international cooperation.” Since January, India has begun shipping doses overseas as part of its proud “vaccine diplomacy.”

Mr. Baldan’s unlimited optimism was based on the sharp decline in infectious diseases reported. Infections have steadily declined since peaking at an average of more than 93,000 daily in mid-September. By mid-February, India had an average of 11,000 cases per day. The 7-day moving average of daily deaths from the disease dropped to less than 100.

The euphoria of defeating the virus has increased since the end of last year. Politicians, policy makers, and some of the media believed that India was really out of the woods. In December, central bank officials announced that India was “bending the Covid infection curve.” In poetic terms, they said there was evidence that the economy “broke out in the long shadows of winter sunlight.” Mr. Modi was called “the leader in vaccines”.

Patients suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are treated in the casualties ward of Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) Hospital during the epidemic of the disease in New Delhi.

Hospitals are full of patients, often two in bed

At the end of February, Indian election authorities announced major elections in five states, with 186 million people eligible to vote in 824 seats. Starting March 27, the poll will last for a month and, in the case of West Bengal, will be conducted in eight stages. The campaign started in earnest and there was no safety protocol or social distance. In mid-March, the cricket board allowed more than 130,000 fans to almost unmask and watch two international cricket matches between India and the United Kingdom at Narendra Modi Stadium in Gujarat. ..

In less than a month, things started to solve. India is on the verge of a catastrophic second wave of viruses and the city is facing a new blockade. By mid-April, the country had an average of more than 100,000 cases per day. On April 15, India recorded more than 200,000 new cases. This is a record of the day. An average of more than 660 deaths were reported daily. If runway infections were not checked, India could have recorded more than 2,300 deaths daily by the first week of June. Lancet Covid-19 Commission Report..

India is currently on the verge of a public health emergency. Social media feeds include Covid funerals in crowded graveyards, mourning of relatives of the dead outside the hospital, long lines of ambulances carrying gasping patients, dead morgues, and corridors and lobbies. A hospital full of videos of patients (sometimes two in bed) in the hospital. There are enthusiastic calls for bed, medicine, oxygen, essential medicines, and testing help. Drugs are sold in the black market and test results can take several days. “They didn’t tell me that my child was dead for three hours,” the vague mother sits outside the ICU and says in one video. Another person’s mourning outside the intensive care unit breaks the silence.

Security guards withhold notifications on April 9, 2021 at the vaccination center in Mumbai, India, informing people that there is a shortage of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine.

India faces vaccine shortages despite increasing immunization momentum

Even the huge vaccination efforts in India were struggling now. Initially, this development was involved in a controversy over the effectiveness of candidates raised in their own country.Even if the country increases the drive 100 million or more doses By last week Vaccine deficiency was reported.. The Serum Institute of India said it could not increase supply by June because it was the country’s largest vaccine maker, the world’s largest vaccine maker, and did not have enough funds to expand its capacity. India has temporarily suspended all exports of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. This is due to the urgent need for domestic administration and the permission to import foreign vaccines. Even oxygen could now be imported to meet the surge in demand.

Meanwhile, the world’s richest cricket tournament was held in a nearly parallel universe away from death and despair. Played in a closed room Every night, and tens of thousands of people were chasing their leaders in election rallies and Participate in a Hindu festival in Kumbh Mela.. “What’s happening, it’s not surreal,” sociology professor Shiv Visvanasan told me. Experts believe that the government appears to have completely dropped the ball into the second wave of infections that hit India.

General view of a burning funeral cremation when relatives perform their last rites for the victims of covid-19 in Bhopal, India, April 15, 2021

Relatives at the funeral of Covid’s victims in Bhopal

In mid-February, Indian Express newspaper journalist Tabassum Barnagarwala reported a seven-fold increase in new cases in parts of Maharashtra, where samples from infected individuals were sequenced to look for imported mutants. Reported that it was sent to the decision.

By the end of the month BBC reported surge He asked if India was facing a new wave of Covid. “I really don’t know what’s causing the surge. I’m worried that the whole family is infected,” said Dr. Shyamsunder Nikam, a civil surgeon in the affected districts of Maharashtra. It’s a whole new trend. ” time.

Experts now shout about India’s exceptionism in “defeating” the epidemic (young population, indigenous immunity, mostly rural population) and proclaiming the virus’s victory is cruel and premature. Is found. “As is common in India, formal arrogance, supranationalism, populism, and a sufficient amount of bureaucratic incompetence combined to create a crisis,” said Bloomberg columnist Mihil Sharma. Said.

The second wave of India was facilitated by people relaxing their vigilance, attending weddings and social gatherings, and allowing political and religious rallies with mixed messages from the government. As the number of infectious diseases decreased, fewer people were taking jabs, and the promotion of vaccination aimed at 250 million people by the end of July was delayed. In mid-February, Bhramar Mukherjee, a biostatistician at the University of Michigan, tweeted that India needs to “accelerate the promotion of vaccination while the number of cases is small.” No one noticed.

Hindus take a holy swim on the Ganges during the Kumbh Mela or Pitcher Festival on April 14, 2021, during the epidemic of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Haridwar, India. To do.

Believers at the Kumbh Mela Festival on April 14, when India recorded more than 184,000 new infections

“There was a sense of victory,” said P Srinath Reddy, chairman of the Indian Public Health Foundation. “Some felt we had achieved herd immunity. Everyone wanted to get back to work. This story reached many receptive ears and some attention was ignored. “He said.

A second wave may have been unavoidable, but India may have “postponed or delayed it and mitigated its effects,” said Gautam Menon, a professor of physics and biology. .. Like many other countries, India should have started careful genome surveillance in January to detect mutations, Menon said.Some of these Subspecies may be causing the surge.. “I learned of a new variant from a report from Maharashtra in February, which was initially denied by the authorities,” Menon added. “This was an important turning point.”

What is the lesson of this public health crisis? For one thing, India should learn not to prematurely declare victory over the virus, which should cover the victory. People should also learn to adapt to short topical blockades in the event of an unavoidable future outbreak of infection. Most epidemiologists are predicting more waves, given that India is clearly still far away to reach herd immunity and its vaccination rates remain slow.

“We can’t freeze human life,” said Professor Reddy. “If you can’t physically distance yourself in a crowded city, you can at least make sure everyone is wearing the right mask. Wear it properly. That’s not a big deal.”

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