India will see a staggering one Million Covid 19 deaths by August one, according to the Lancet editorial. In addition, if this happens, the Lancet editorial blames the Narendra Modi government for presiding over a self-inflicted national catastrophe.
The Journal says that the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation gave the estimates. The editorial points out that the country squandered its early successes in controlling COVID-19.
It said that the country should restructure its response. “The success of that effort will depend on the government owning up to its mistakes, providing responsible leadership and transparency, and implementing a public health response that has science at its heart,” the Journal said.
The lancet calls for a two-pronged strategy. First, the vaccine drive must be rationalised and implemented with all due speed. Stating that India should overcome two immediate bottlenecks, the Lancet cried out for increasing vaccine supply and setting up a distribution campaign. This campaign should cover not only the urban population but also the rural and poorer citizens, who constitute more than 65 per cent of the population. The Indian Government should work with local and primary health care centres that know their communities and create an equitable distribution system for the vaccine.
As a Second step, the editorial said the country must reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission as much as possible while rolling out the vaccine. The government should 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. It also called for expanding genome sequencing to better track, understand, and control emerging and more transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants.
The editorial also commented that Modi’s actions in attempting to stifle criticism and open discussion during the crisis are inexcusable.
In the editorial, they pointed out that the government allowed religious festivals and political rallies to go ahead despite warnings about the risks of super spreader events. Apart from this, the message that COVID-19 was essentially over also slowed the start of COVID-19 vaccination campaign in the country. The government abruptly shifted course without discussing the change in policy with states. They expanded vaccination to everyone older than 18 years. This created mass confusion and a market for vaccine doses in which states and hospital systems competed.
The Journal also points out to the crisis in states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. These states were unprepared for the sudden spike in cases. They quickly ran out of medical oxygen, hospital space and overwhelming the capacity of cremation sites.
Hospitals are overwhelmed, and health workers are exhausted and becoming infected. Social media is full of desperate people (doctors and the public) seeking medical oxygen, hospital beds, and other necessities. Yet before the second wave of cases of COVID-19 began to mount in early March, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan claimed that India was in the “endgame” of the epidemic. The impression from the government was that India had beaten COVID-19 after several months of low case counts, despite warnings of a second wave and the emergence of new strains.
Modelling falsely said that the country reached herd immunity, encouraging complacency and insufficient preparation. However, a sero-survey by the Indian Council of Medical Research in January suggested that only 21 per cent of the population had antibodies against the virus. “At times, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government has seemed more intent on removing criticism in twitter than trying to control the pandemic,” the lancet said.