World India can’t vaccinate its way out of its latest Covid-19 surge
Why second Covid wave is devastating India
A deadly second wave has overrun hospitals and crematoriums in India.She kept waiting and gasping but it was too late by the time help arrived. She was taken to a hospital emergency room on 16 April after her oxygen saturation level dropped. Her CT scan showed that she had developed chronic pneumonia.
India is facing a deepening Covid-19 crisis a year after it went into one of.
But this time around, authorities are reluctant to reimpose a nationwide stay-at-home order. Add to that a flailing vaccination campaign and the spread of new virus variants, and India’s immediate future looks grim.
For nearly a week, the country has recorded more thandaily — one of the highest rates , though likely still an undercount. A shortage of beds and is straining health care systems, particularly in cities such as and .
Delhi hospitals run out of oxygen amid Covid spike
Hospitals are overwhelmed, with more than 99% of intensive care beds occupied.A number of people have died while waiting for oxygen, and more than 99% of all intensive care beds are full.
People are using social media in an attempt toand to share reports of people going from in search of treatment. Daily deaths have also increased, on Tuesday, and crematoriums .
A tangle of factors is likely fueling the surge, which makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly what’s going on. “Many of us are still scratching our heads about this. There’s no concrete evidence,” Manoj Mohanan, associate professor of public policy, economics, and global health at Duke University, told me. “What we do know is a few pieces of the puzzle.”
The puzzle pieces include aand the promise of the vaccination campaign, both of which may have given the public and even officials a false sense of security. On top of that, there’s been a general fatigue with Covid-19 restrictions, which felt particularly burdensome when cases were on the downswing.
“It’s a tsunami”: The coronavirus is overwhelming India’s health care system
India set a pandemic record with almost 347,000 new cases in a day.The country reported almost 347,000 new cases over a 24-hour stretch, according to the New York Times, setting a new worldwide high for the third day in a row. Deaths also climbed, to a record 2,624 in a single day, and the rolling seven-day average of daily new cases in India is quickly approaching 300,000.
People started getting lax about things such as mask-wearing and social distancing. Many started to resume something like normal life, attending weddings and other celebrations.
“There was a sense of relaxation in both public policymakers as well as the general public, and there was a noticeable decline in Covid-appropriate behavior,” Chandrakant Lahariya, a public policy and health systems expert in Delhi, told me.
Mass gatherings have furthered the perception that India has defeated the virus — and likely intensified some of the spread.crowded alongside the Ganges River as part of , a major Hindu festival in India and one of the largest religious gatherings in the world.
A year into the pandemic, some Indian states are also, which are shaping up to be a and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). and other BJP officials have hosted throughout the campaign, . His hasn’t exactly been following Covid protocols, either.
India Is a Warning
The world’s largest vaccine producer is struggling to overcome its latest COVID-19 surge—and that’s everyone’s problem.What is taking place in India isn’t so much a wave as it is a wall: Charts showing the country’s infection rate and death toll, which has also reached record numbers in the country, depict curves that have shot up into vertical lines. Public-health experts aren’t optimistic that they will slope down anytime soon.
“The public sentiment is of denial, fatigue and fatalistic surrender,” Bhramar Mukherjee, a biostatistician and epidemiologist at the University of Michigan, told me in an email.
Experts are also concerned about the spread of, though it’s not yet known how these are driving the spike or whether they’re .
But as Mukherjee put it, the more the virus spreads, the more it changes. And those changes potentially make Covid-19 harder to contain.
The challenge of trying to fight this second wave: Fatigue and frustration
To slow its first Covid-19 wave last March, India imposed one of the most aggressive lockdowns in the world. A year into the pandemic, India is unlikely to pursue that course again. “The massive lockdowns are no longer feasible, and it’s become politically untenable,” Duke’s Mohanan told me. “So it’s just not something they can reasonably do.”
The first lockdown, and political leaders likely fear the blowback of more sweeping restrictions. Modi this week that even states should use lockdowns as the last resort and focus instead on “ .”
How deadly is India's Covid variant and is it REALLY behind crisis?
Doctors on the frontline have blamed the B.1.617 strain for the raging second wave that is killing nearly 3,000 Indians a day. But UK scientists have accused India of being too complacent.Doctors on the frontline claim the B.1.617 strain is responsible for the raging second wave which has sparked hundreds of thousands of new infections each day and left the country with a crippling shortage of oxygen and hospital beds.
But as certain states and cities face an acute crisis, there are few options left to try to stanch the virus spread. In Delhi, where the, officials imposed a weeklong shutdown with a curfew from 10 pm to 5 am. Officials authorities would be fined if they left their homes.
The, where Mumbai is located, has imposed for 15 days, including a curfew and curbs on all but essential services. “I am not saying a lockdown just now, but strict restrictions,” Maharashtra’s at a press conference announcing the changes, the BBC reported.
Even without a full-on lockdown, the new restrictions will create additional.
A Pew Research Center survey estimates the coronavirus pushedin 2020, and a . This is especially true in areas that are — such as Mumbai, where many such businesses are now shuttered because of the Covid-19 rise.
This is something authorities are acutely aware of: “I know bread and butter is important,” Thackeray said at the same press conference, “but saving lives is important.”
Biden’s Whiplash Pandemic Diplomacy
The president’s carefully constructed pandemic-diplomacy plan fell apart as the COVID-19 crisis in India worsened. The Biden administration needs to learn from this misstep and demonstrate a more agile approach in managing the pandemic globally and in navigating the domestic politics of foreign policy. © Sarah Silbiger / Bloomberg / Nasir Kachroo / NurPhoto / Getty / The Atlantic President Joe Biden’s foreign-policy team supports India and is unambiguously internationalist in its instincts, especially on matters of public health.
India can’t vaccinate its way out of this surge
Prime Minister Modi said this week that, starting May 1, anyone. But expanding the eligibility, doesn’t solve some of India’s other vaccination issues.
India’s vaccination program began with, given India’s experience with vaccination campaigns and its advantage as one of the major global manufacturers of the doses.
The Serum Institute of India was already the largest vaccine manufacturer worldwide, and its production is now essential in the global Covid-19 vaccination effort. It’s contracted to produce billions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine — for both itself and the rest of the world.
As it started its own vaccination campaign, India donated supplies of its vaccine to neighboring countries,. The Serum Institute also contracted with , the multilateral effort to deliver vaccine supplies, to make more than 1 billion vaccine doses.
Many of the, which . Issues also meant wealthier countries like the and made deals with the Serum Institute, and .
But India’s own rollout has been sluggish, and as Mukherjee said, India really missed its window of opportunity to speed up vaccinations when cases were low earlier this year. Just overhave been administered in the country so far. It sounds like a lot, until you consider that the country set the . Only of the population is fully vaccinated.
The world could be doing much more to help India
Countries can’t go it alone in tackling Covid-19.Now, there are so many people with severe Covid-19 that health care workers like him in several cities have to make difficult decisions about which patients to move to the ICU, who gets put on a ventilator, whom to give oxygen — if those options are even available.
And some parts of India have begun seeing vaccine supplies dry up,. Now, the Indian government is desperately trying . It gave to most of the foreign vaccines and is expected to receive about .
More doses are not a cure-all, though. It is a lot harder to massively ramp up a vaccination campaign in a country that is already floundering because of a health crisis. The same nurses or technicians deployed to vaccinate people are often the same personnel who need to attend to Covid patients or do Covid-19 testing and contract tracing.
That could intensify the Covid surge, which may stall the vaccination campaign even more, creating a dangerous cycle.
“I am worried that the healthcare infrastructure now has to take care of tests, hospitalization and vaccination,” Mukherjee said.
Even if India can find a balance between the Covid emergency and vaccinations, India won’t be able to simply inoculate its way out of this Covid-19 crisis. That will require the public health measures, the same policies that officials know work: things like masking, social distancing, avoiding mass gatherings.
“Everybody knew that there would be a second wave,” Lahariya, the public health expert in India, said. “What they did not know that when this wave would come, and how long would it last, and what would be the effect.”
“We are in the second wave now,” he continued. “So it’s time to do all the things which have been done in the past.”
Priyanka Chopra appeals for help for India as COVID-19 deaths surge .
'People are dying in record numbers. There is illness everywhere, and it's only continuing to spread and kill at great speed and scale,' Priyanka posted to her Instagram.The Indian actress, 38, has partnered with donation platform @GiveIndia to set up a fundraiser #TogetherForIndia and issued an emotional appeal for help on her Instagram.