At times, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government has seemed more intent on removing criticism on Twitter than trying to control the pandemic, says an article published on The Lancet.
“Despite warnings about the risks of superspreader events, the government allowed religious festivals to go ahead, drawing millions of people from around the country, along with huge political rallies—conspicuous for their lack of COVID-19 mitigation measures”, says the article.
The Lancet has accused the Modi Government of making a false impression that India had beaten COVID-19. It accused the government of ignoring the repeated warning of the dangers of a second wave and the emergence of new strains. The government’s “modelling suggested falsely that India had reached herd immunity, encouraging complacency and insufficient preparation, but a serosurvey by the Indian Council of Medical Research in January suggested that only 21% of the population had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2”.
The journal has called on the Narendra Modi government to own up mistakes, provide responsible leadership and implement a science-based response to steer India out of its Covid-19 crisis and “botched vaccination campaign”, describing some of its actions as “inexcusable”.
Soon after the call from The Lancet journal, the Indian Medical Association (IMA), the country’s largest body of doctors, accused the Modi government of inappropriate actions, hiding data and deaths and failing to plan a roadmap to ensure adequate vaccines were available.
“Modi’s actions in attempting to stifle criticism and open discussion during the crisis are inexcusable,” the journal said, adding that the US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has estimated that India could see 1 million deaths by August 1.
“If that outcome were to happen, Modi’s government would be responsible for presiding over a self-inflicted national catastrophe. India squandered its early successes in controlling Covid-19,” the journal said, suggesting corrective strategies in line with demands from sections of India’s research community.
“The crisis has not been equally distributed, with states such as Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra unprepared for the sudden spike in cases, quickly running out of medical oxygen, hospital space, and overwhelming the capacity of cremation sites, and with some state governments threatening those asking for oxygen or a hospital bed with national security laws. Others, such as Kerala and Odisha, were better prepared, and have been able to produce enough medical oxygen in this second wave to export it to other states”.
The journal has advised India to pursue a two-pronged strategy.
First, the botched vaccination campaign must be rationalised and implemented with all due speed. There are two immediate bottlenecks to overcome: increasing vaccine supply (some of which should come from abroad) and setting up a distribution campaign that can cover not just urban but also rural and poorer citizens, who constitute more than 65% of the population (over 800 million people) but face a desperate scarcity of public health and primary care facilities. The government must work with local and primary health-care centres that know their communities and create an equitable distribution system for the vaccine.
Second, India must reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission as much as possible while the vaccine is rolled out. As cases continue to mount, the government must publish accurate data in a timely manner, and forthrightly explain to the public what is happening and what is needed to bend the epidemic curve, including the possibility of a new federal lockdown. Genome sequencing needs to be expanded to better track, understand, and control emerging and more transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants.
Wake up from slumber, mitigate Covid-19 challenges: IMA to Health Ministry
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) on Saturday said that the Union Health Ministry should “wake up” from its slumber and respond to mitigate the growing challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Taking to Twitter, the doctors’ body said, “IMA demands the health ministry to wake up from its slumber and respond to mitigate the growing challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.”