The coronavirus pandemic has affected the lives of millions across the world. As the outbreak worsened in 2020, countries began imposing strict lockdowns.
However, as the need for normalcy increased, many countries, including India, began to believe coronavirus wouldn’t be a threat anymore.
Believing that many people had antibodies, India began to open up and had mass gatherings for political, religious, and social events.
India is now breaking the world's daily COVID-19 cases with more than 400,000 in a single day on April 30.
What’s going on in India?
India has a dense population of over 1.3 billion people, and over 300,000 cases have been reported per day since April 21st.
Initially, India appeared to be containing the coronavirus well after a harsh lockdown. There were record low cases recorded per day, with new cases and deaths considerably lower than in other countries.
After the lockdown was lifted, many Indians stopped taking precautions. With little guidance from the government, many felt like the pandemic was over, facilitating a slower urgency to get vaccinated.
Only 2% of the population has been fully vaccinated.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being criticized for allowing massive political and religious events to happen, becoming super-spreader events in recent weeks.
Those who appear to be doing well against the surge are from the wealthy parts of India.
Indian hospitals, doctors, medical staff, and crematory workers alike have been overwhelmed by new cases and deaths every day.
There’s a huge shortage of hospital beds, medicine, protective equipment, and oxygen.
Testing for COVID-19 has also been limited, so many experts believe the real number of infections is over 50 times more than the numbers being reported.
India and COVID-19 variants
There was a large outbreak when the coronavirus outbreak began, which led many to believe there was some herd immunity and antibodies in those who initially caught COVID-19 and recovered.
Scientists have discovered at least two variants of the COVID-19 variant rampaging across India right now, including the UK variant and the B.1.617 variant.
The B.1.617 variant:
Was first identified in India last December
Contains two key mutations to the outer “spike” portion of the virus
Is more contagious
Can slip through the immune system and attack human cells
This variant is not only more contagious but can also cause more severe symptoms and can evade vaccine or antibody immunity.
Scientists suggest the B.1.617 variant can overpower prior immunity, which may explain the explosion of COVID-19 cases in India.
Can the vaccine help India?
Indian pharmaceutical companies were a leading force in supplying the world with COVID-19 vaccines. India has exported millions of vaccine doses to those in need.
The Serum Institute of Indian in Pune is the world’s largest vaccine maker, manufacturing AstraZeneca and Covaxin.
With raw materials for the vaccine running out, the race to buy vaccines between state governments and private hospitals is exponentially increasing the costs.
The federal government needs 615 million doses to finish vaccinating everyone above the age of 45, and for 18-44-year-olds, they need 1.2 billion doses.
Supply is nowhere close to what is needed to be able to hit the goal of administering 3.5 million doses per day.
The shortage of dosages is affecting other South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
How are other countries responding?
Many countries have had a delayed response to India’s crisis. It is thanks to Indian activists in different countries that the attention and help is finally being given to India.
The United States especially has been criticized for not lifting the ban on exporting raw materials that were put in place in February.
The delay in the decision is terrible, with the US having millions of unused AstraZeneca vaccine doses.
Medical aid from the United States and other nations are arriving in India, including oxygen cylinders, N95 masks, and rapid tests.
About 40 countries are sending medical supplies, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Guyana.
Many countries are banning travel from India, beginning May 1st, including the UK, US, Canada, Germany, Australia, and more. Bangladesh announced closing borders to prevent the spread of the virus.
What can I do to help?
Worldwide governments need to do more to help India and its citizens. The more the virus spreads, the more variants will be made - and this will spread to infect everyone, even outside of India.
Every minute is a life or death situation. Although it's hard for a single individual to provide assistance for India, there are things we can collectively do to aid India in this coronavirus crisis.
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Please continue to bring awareness to India’s COVID-19 crisis by sharing and reposting on social media, as well as continuing to stay informed on world news.
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Sovena Ngeth is a Philadelphia-based writer who is passionate about using her words for change. She is also a content writer at the International Youth Organization for Peace and Sustainability.
Inputs and Edits by Aswin Raghav R.