Spiralling virus cases in India alarming - GulfToday

Spiralling virus cases in India alarming


Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

India is finding itself in a morass of challenges as it strives to contain the coronavirus pandemic. For the third day running, it has registered over 200,000 infections, which is utterly alarming.

New Delhi led major cities across India into a weekend lockdown on Saturday. This comes even as hospitals are reportedly running out of oxygen, and there is a crazy scramble for beds.

Hopes that South Asia might have beaten the pandemic have been dashed with India seeing over two million new cases this month alone and Bangladesh and Pakistan also imposing shutdowns.

After a national lockdown a year ago led to an economic slump, the Indian government is desperate to avoid a second stoppage. But Delhi joined Mumbai in ordering all but essential services to close.

Historical landmarks such as the historic Red Fort where tens of thousands of people would normally gather, were deserted.

More than 1,600 people tested positive for coronavirus in Haridwar, according to news reports, in barely three days this week and experts fear that many devotees attending the Kumbh Mela will take the virus back to their home towns and villages.

After gifting and selling tens of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses abroad, India suddenly finds itself short of shots as new infections surge in the world’s second-most populous country.

It will import Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine starting this month to cover as many as 125 million people. This could hamper not only India’s battle to contain the pandemic, but also vaccination campaigns in more than 60 poorer countries, mainly in Africa, for months.

The COVAX programme, backed by the World Health Organisation and Gavi vaccine alliance, aims at equitable vaccine access around the world, and is relying heavily on supplies from India, Asia’s pharmaceutical powerhouse.

But so far this month India has only reportedly exported around 1.2 million vaccine doses.

The director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, said earlier this month delays in supplies from India could be “catastrophic”.

The Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer, had vowed to deliver at least 2 billion COVID-19 shots to low and middle-income countries, with nearly half of that by the end of 2021.

But it has also come under pressure to meet the needs of other governments, including Britain and Canada, amid AstraZeneca’s global production problems. COVAX has a deal to buy 1 billion-plus doses from the SII. But it has received less than a fifth of the 100 million or so doses of the SII-made AstraZeneca vaccine it had expected by May.

However, not all is lost as the government is ratcheting up its bid to curb the coronavirus. Over 3 million vaccine doses have been administered in the last 24 hours, as per data by the Union Health Ministry.

According to the Ministry, cumulatively, 11,99,37,641 vaccine doses have been administered through 17,37,539 sessions, as per the provisional report till 7am on Saturday. A total of 1,11,44,069 frontline workers have been administered the first dose while 54,08,572 FLWs have received the second dose.

There is another hitch. Among all the mutant COVID-19 variants in India, the double mutated virus, B.1.617, is becoming the most prevalent, according to genome sequencing data submitted by Indian scientists to a global database.

The database has revealed that the double mutation virus, which has been found in several countries, was the most common in the samples sequenced in the 60 days prior to April 2 at 24 per cent.

The government should do its best to overcome the bottlenecks in distribution. A lot of people are observing the rules in the breach, particularly where social distancing is concerned. Cracking down on those who step out of line is very vital at this stage.

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