The pharmacy in India is underestimated

India is losing control

When the test showed that Ravi (name changed) had Corona, the day laborer ran away and disappeared into the narrow streets of the Lalbagh slum in the Indian megacity of Delhi. The 38-year-old did not want to go to one of the quarantine centers in the densely populated slum. The sole breadwinner of his family would have been stuck there for at least 14 days without being able to earn a single rupee. Nobody knows how many people Ravi had infected on his escape from the quarantine station before he turned himself in after days.

Desperate and rave are one of the reasons why the number of new corona infections in India has exploded since the end of March. The Indian Ministry of Health recently reported more than 230,000 new infections - in one day! Since there is still little testing in the largest democracy in the world, the actual number of infected people is likely to be much higher. With around 14.5 million sick people and more than 175,000 deaths, India is now the country with the most infected people after the USA, according to the American Johns Hopkins University. Due to the disastrous numbers, India has now stopped exporting corona vaccine. Vaccination campaigns around the world could come to a standstill.

For days, Shiv Kumari was looking for the corona-positive Ravi. As a state health worker who works voluntarily for the aid organization World Vision, she wants to help break the violent second wave in the slum where she grew up. She reports that many hospitals are already reaching their limits and are rejecting corona patients. Most recently there were more than 17,000 new infections per day in the Indian capital alone, and more and more children are among those infected, and some crematoria have had to put additional ovens into operation. So that infected people can check their oxygen saturation in their blood themselves, the health worker is now distributing oxygen measuring devices to the sick, which the Indian government provides free of charge.

“Even if the number of infections is rising rapidly, people are more afraid that they will starve to death because of a forced quarantine or a second hard lockdown than that they will die of the virus. That's why many don't want to be tested, ”reports the 42-year-old.

With the world's largest curfew, India tried to prevent the corona collapse at the beginning of the pandemic. At that time there were presumably numerous undiscovered cases, so that one could already speak of a first wave, which is often not counted as such. The effects on the economy were catastrophic, the state and aid organizations had to support millions of people with food aid deliveries.

The strict lockdown has been loosened since the beginning of June of last year, now at the beginning of April at the Kumbh Mela, the largest Hindu festival in the world, millions of people came together to celebrate together and often without a mask and to bathe in the Ganges. Even if participation was officially only allowed with a negative corona test, the celebrations, as well as overcrowded election campaign events and well-attended cricket games, became super-spreader events.

“The first strict lockdown was necessary so that the health system could prepare for the pandemic and the population could be made aware of the seriousness of the situation. Nevertheless, many people have now lost their fear of the virus, ”says Dr. Suvirajh John, chief physician at the renowned Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi.

According to the doctor, the viral mutation now prevalent in India is more contagious and likely also more dangerous and deadly than the first wave virus. Many hospitals are now quickly filling up with COVID-19 patients and hundreds of doctors and nurses have already paid for the fight against Corona with their lives. "If the health system in certain regions of our country reaches its limits - and it will - the government will react with regional lockdowns to give the hospitals a chance to regain the upper hand over the virus," says Dr. Suvirajh John.

Weekend lockdowns and night curfews have already been imposed in the capital Delhi and in the particularly affected state of Maharashtra, which is also home to the 12.5 million economic metropolis of Mumbai. In addition, the largest vaccination campaign in the world is now set to help India fight the virus.

In mid-January, the country began vaccinating the world's second largest population, including those at high risk, health system employees and police officers. All people over 45 years of age are now eligible to vaccinate. According to the Indian Ministry of Health, more than 106 million people had already been vaccinated at least once as of April 18. According to the plan, 300 million people are to be immunized by the end of July. But in the end the campaign stalled.

“India underestimated the force of the second wave. At the current rate of vaccination, it would take 13 months to protect 60 percent of the population. The government now has to spend a lot more money very quickly, dramatically expand production capacities and issue emergency approvals for further vaccines, ”says Dr. Christian Wagner, India expert from the Science and Politics Foundation in Berlin.

According to the motto »India First«, India, which as the home of the world's largest vaccine manufacturer »Serum Institute of India« likes to call itself the »pharmacy of the world«, does not want to export any corona vaccines until at least the end of June. Dr. Suvirajh John: »We live in a globalized world. The pandemic can only be defeated worldwide if the battle in India is won. "

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