The latest data from India’s Health Ministry shows that the country’s new corona pneumonia epidemic has been worsening at an appalling rate in the past two days – an average of 10,000 confirmed cases and 60 deaths per hour. As of the 20th, India ranks second in the world after the United States, with a cumulative total of 15.32 million confirmed cases and more than 180,000 deaths, with images of overcrowded hospitals and overwhelmed crematoriums hitting the world’s major media. The Modi government is clutching on expansion of vaccination as the “life-saving straw,” but the reality is that the U.S. export ban on vaccine raw materials will force India’s vaccine production lines to shut down within weeks. “India blocks capital as U.S. reaches vaccination milestone”. Such headlines should make India sit up hard. “The immunization divide is increasing, to the detriment of all humanity. If the vast majority of developing countries are struggling with the epidemic, how can the United States stand alone?” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin raised a “soul-crushing question” about the selfish behavior of the United States on the 20th.
Crematoriums go round and round, the iron frame is burnt
The storm is raging in New Delhi, and Mohammad Shameem pauses wearily to glance at yet another ambulance carrying new corona pneumonia victims. This grave digger’s workload has increased dramatically in the past few weeks. The scene described by AFP 20 took place at a cemetery in the Indian capital. The report said that because of the surge in the new corona pneumonia dead, crematoriums across India had to be overloaded. An electric furnace in Ahmedabad was in continuous use for 20 hours a day for nearly two weeks, resulting in the collapse of the chimney. The iron frame inside another electric furnace in Surat burned away because there was no time for the furnace to cool down. In some parts of Lucknow, wood was in short supply and cremated relatives had to bring their own firewood and wait in line for 12 hours. One person who couldn’t wait started burning the body in the adjacent park.
From the end of last year to the beginning of this year, some Indians thought the epidemic was coming to an end, but now it has launched a second offensive in a more virulent way. 274,000 new cases were confirmed in India on the 19th, the highest single-day increase since the epidemic, and the tenth record in 11 days. Although the increase fell slightly compared to the previous day, the trend of the spread of the epidemic has not been controlled. The rate of positive tests in the capital, New Delhi, exceeded 30%.
Even though it has been alarming, these figures are still suspect for not really reflecting the severity of the epidemic in India. Reuters said the number of cremations and burials in some major Indian cities far exceeds the number of officially reported deaths. Bramal Mukherjee, a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Michigan, studied the first wave of the Indian epidemic and concluded that the actual number of infections in the country was 11 times higher than the official figures, and the number of deaths was two to five times higher than the reported figures.
Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal announced a six-day “lockdown” at 10 p.m. that night. He warned, “I am not saying that the health system has collapsed, but it has reached its limits”. Such a situation is seen in many parts of India. Oxygen, ICU beds and treatment drugs are extremely short. India’s news18 website reported “a shocking case of medical indifference” in a video on the 20th. Due to a shortage of beds, a patient with neoconiosis was asked to wait outside the hospital for hours, and he finally died on a stretcher. At the time, the Jharkhand Health Minister was visiting the hospital.
The Huan QiuShi Bao reporter saw for himself that a short-term after blockade was declared in Delhi, local citizens began to rush into the streets to buy essential goods. As for online, if you do not order first, the page will soon jump to the “out of stock alert” status. The Economic Times of India reported that the consumption of alcohol has increased exponentially. The uncertainty about the course of the epidemic has led to doubts about how long the blockade will last, and panic buying has naturally ensued,” said Giri, Director General of the Indian Alcoholic Beverages Industry Federation.
Indian media angrily denounces U.S. “vaccine mafia behavior”
In response to the outbreak, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hosted five special meetings in a week, and on the 20th, he again held a video conference with vaccine manufacturers. The Indian Ministry of Health announced on the same day that from May 1, vaccination will be further extended to all people over 18 years of age, and local states will be able to purchase vaccines directly from vaccine manufacturers. The Indian news agency PTI quoted analysts as saying that this could push up the price of vaccines and exacerbate the “vaccination vulnerability” of the lower strata of society.
But this is no big deal compared to the U.S. “jam”. India’s Scroll website reported on the 20th that if the United States does not provide 37 key ingredients, India’s new corona vaccine production line will stop production within a few weeks. Poonawala, CEO of the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, recently tweeted to “beg” President Joe Biden to lift the ban on exporting raw materials to India.
“This is vaccine mafia behavior!” India’s ZEE News declared in outrage at the U.S. approach. The Indian Express reported that immediately after taking office, Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to ban the export of key materials used in the production of vaccines to ensure that vaccine manufacturers such as Pfizer in the United States would be supplied with sufficient raw materials for round-the-clock production.
An anonymous source told The Indian Express that Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Blinken on the phone on the 19th about the U.S. ban on exporting raw materials for vaccines. The source said the Biden administration expressed understanding of India’s needs and said it would give “due consideration” to the issue of raw materials for vaccines. The Indian newsagency, PTI, said that in the White House briefing on the outbreak on Monday and the subsequent regular press conference, a question about the Indian Serum Institute calling upon the United States to lift the ban was asked twice, but the White House Press Secretary did not respond.
The Financial Times said the Modi government, which not long ago claimed India was the “pharmacy of the world,” is now busy ensuring more vaccines are available for domestic use.
“A stumbling Indian vaccine supply is bad news for the world.” CNN said the director of the African CDC agency warned that India’s control of vaccine exports could be “catastrophic” for the continent.
“China urges the U.S. to take its share of international responsibility.” Wang Wenbin said on the 20th that according to relevant statistics, the U.S. is currently the world’s second largest producer of the new corona vaccine, but the vaccines it produces are rarely exported. According to the U.S. Axios news network, 30 million doses of vaccine are “gathering dust” in warehouses in Ohio while billions of people around the world anxiously await the vaccine.
India still does not plan a national embargo for economic reasons
The United States, New Zealand, Pakistan and other countries have tightened travel restrictions on India ino varying degrees. As of Friday, India was placed on the “red” travel list by the United Kingdom. The Hong Kong government has announced a 14-day regional flight “meltdown” that bans all civilian flights from India from landing in Hong Kong, starting on the 20th. Hong Kong’s Sing Tao Daily reports that a passenger plane arrived in Hong Kong from New Delhi on April 4, and passengers on board became ill one after another during the 21-day quarantine period, and at least 53 people have been diagnosed as having Covid.
British Prime Minister Johnson announced on April 19 that he would cancel his visit to India scheduled for next week and instead hold talks with Modi by video. The British newspaper The Times said that the implementation of this ban, no matter how reasonable, will not be welcomed by India. The Hindu reported that in the preceding weeks, visits to India by the president of Rwanda, the Prime Minister of Denmark and the Foreign Minister of Australia had all been canceled. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was scheduled to visit India after Johnson, but it is now unclear whether he will be able to do so.
The Wall Street Journal quoted public health experts as saying that the new variant of the virus is more contagious and that India is letting its guard down. Recently, for example, political rallies in West Bengal were attended by tens of thousands of people, most of whom were not wearing masks. Thousands of Hindus bathed in the Ganges during this month’s Mahakumbh Festival, and the BBC commented that nightclubs, malls, gyms and even holiday rallies were crowded – it was business as usual in India a few months ago, not like being in the middle of an epidemic. Now the country has to pay the price.
However, the Indian government is still not planning to adopt a nationwide lockdown for now. Indian Finance Minister Sitharaman said in a closed-door meeting that the government’s top priority is to expand India’s medical infrastructure and maintain the growth momentum of economic recovery, “assuring that there will not be another nationwide blockade,” the Hindustan Times said on the 20th, citing sources familiar with the matter .