Covid crisis: Should India be a warning for other countries? Expert comment

Question Time audience member says India in ‘incredible pain’

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India’s coronavirus crisis is continuing and the number of cases is on the rise with hospitals running out of oxygen, leaving people dying on the streets. Coronavirus infections in neighbouring nations including Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka are on the rise, but cases are dropping in Bangladesh. Express.co.uk speaks to geopolitical and medical experts about the ongoing pandemic in India and why it is a risk for many other nations around the globe.

The second wave of the Indian coronavirus pandemic is having a devastating impact with more than 400,000 new cases recorded on Saturday.

The number of deaths passed the 200,000 mark this week, which means India has the fourth-highest death toll of any country in the world, behind the USA, Brazil and Mexico.

A panel of Indian scientists warned officials in March of a new and more contagious variant appeared to be taking hold of the country.

The scientists said the Federal Government did not seek to impose major restrictions despite the warning.

India reported another world record of 401,993 new Covid cases on Saturday, with deaths rising by 3,523 in the past 24 hours.

In addition to the devastating spread of the deadly virus, a fire broke out in a COVID-19 hospital in Western India on Saturday morning.

The fire, which broke out at Welfare Hospital in Bharuch, killed 18 patients and was extinguished in an hour.

RV Chudasama, a superintendent of police in Bharuch, said: “Sixteen patients and two staff members have died in the fire.

“Twelve of them died due to fire and smoke.

“Preliminary investigation shows the fire was caused because of a short circuit.”

Countries around the world have been called to arms and many have sent emergency medical supplies as hospitals struggle to cope with demand.

The UK began by sending ventilators and oxygen concentrator devices and EU members are also due to send aid.

The US lifted its ban on sending raw materials abroad, with the White House sending materials to Indian vaccine manufacturers.

President Joe Biden said: “Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, we are determined to help India in its time of need.”

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Global affairs expert Dr Vishakha N. Desai said the viral outbreak appears to be targeting “not just the elderly” but also the young, including children.

She said the country is an important example of why it is important to make everyone safe, as “no-one is safe until everyone is safe.”

Dr Desai told Express.co.uk: “It is clear that short-term political considerations are causing long-term problems that can’t be handled by states alone.

“The absence of a central government and the political leadership style of the current government that doesn’t seem to respect science, public health experts, and common sense, preferring an authoritarian style of governance is the biggest culprit for the current catastrophe.

Dennis Hancock, the president and CEO of biotech company Mountain Valley MD said one of the reasons the second wave has hit India so acutely is because social distancing rules were relaxed too early and large superspreader events were permitted too early.

Mr Hancock told Express.co.uk: “When you have lax social policies combined with new mutant variations of COVID-19 that have a higher rate of infection and are more virulent, a very rapid rise in infection cases and deaths is inevitable.”

According to the World Health Organization, the new deaths reportedly globally on April 30 were 14,572.

The pharmaceutical expert said it is not impossible to imagine if the current rates continue and Covid variants continue to spread the global rate could surpass 500,000 new deaths each day.

He added this figure would only be the case without “vaccination and therapeutic protection” measures being introduced.

The current spike of infections is representative of India’s biggest crisis since Nagendra Modi took office in 2014.

The crisis can also be understood as a warning for other countries as they continue to battle the Covid pandemic.

Mr Hancock said new variants are creating a challenge for most countries and more learning is required.

He told Express.co.uk: “The new variants are already creating challenges for vaccine efficacy and the ability to roll out effective boosters and additional vaccines is uncertain at this point.

“In Europe and North America where we’re starting to see a levelling off of infections related to a high rate of vaccinations administered, it is still not clear if this is temporary or if the third wave of new variants will cause reinfection.

“We recommend caution at this stage and would encourage no one to let their guards down prematurely with social distancing and proper precautionary measures.”

The medical expert added the biggest risk given the ongoing crisis in India is the continued risk of mutation and how these variants could spread exponentially.

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