India has been victim to a massive Covid-19 second-wave outbreak, labelled by many as the worst healthcare emergency in India’s recent past. The cases are over 360,000 per day, with the daily deaths reaching more than 3,200. The total death toll is over 200,000 and is believed to be an undercount. According to the WHO, this surge is due to a “perfect storm” of factors, which include low vaccination rates, large gatherings and increasingly contagious variants. Only 9% of the population has been vaccinated, and many states have run out of vaccines as of Friday. Prime Minister Modi boasted about India’s preparedness to Covid when Europe was suffering, but it was exactly the lack of preparedness and leadership, as well as the false sense of security that led to this skyrocket in cases.
Hospital corridors are filled with dying people. Crematoriums have no firewood. Car parks and parks are becoming make-shift grounds of cremation. People are giving bribes in order to see their late friends and family in a hospital mortuary and are paying for priests to do any sort of goodbye ceremony possible. Hospitals are forced to turn away covid patients, as they have a shortage of beds and oxygen. Doctors and nurses, as well as the healthcare system overall, are overwhelmed and underfunded. India spends around 1.28% of its GDP on health (as of 2018), which is much lower than most countries. In comparison, China’s healthcare expenditure as a percentage of their GDP was around 6.64% in 2019. Those who don’t have the contacts and resources to access hospital beds and oxygen are in crisis. The lack of resources and information that individuals have is a major contributing factor to this crisis. People in the state UP who speak out are threatened by Yogi Adityanath with jail time for ‘spreading rumours’ and can get their property taken away.
⅕ doses being used worldwide are produced in India, and it is the biggest exporter of coronavirus vaccines. COVAX put all its eggs in one basket, with India set to manufacture 80% of 2.26 billion doses. Now, with India restricting its vaccine exports, LICs and COVAX-dependent countries will be left without any. According to Agathe Demarais, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s global forecasting director, “Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are essentially unaffordable for most developing countries. Without COVAX, their only option is to turn to Russia and China.” Many scientists are calling for equal vaccine distribution.
Aid from various countries has been sent to India, but it is not enough. The UK sent 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators, but no vaccines until there is a surplus. The UK and Japan are the only ones in the top few vaccine-manufacturing nations that aren’t exporting. Ireland, France, Australia, and Germany are sending various oxygen supplies. High-up USA officials committed to constant support for India in this crisis, which is meant to include shipping vaccines. No specific date has been set, but White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated that over the next few weeks, the US would send around 60 million AstraZeneca doses. Qatar Airways committed to sending medical support and supplies for free from various international manufacturers.
India is struggling. The Indian government and international organizations need to do everything they can to help.