India's Second Wave: How A Nation's Success Story Was Turned Around
For some time now, eyes have been riveted towards the situation in India. There's much talk about this beautiful country, but in 2021, the conversation has turned serious. Dramatic images of funeral pyres—smoke billowing upwards toward the sky—and the grief-stricken faces of family members crying out for oxygen have so far bombarded the global community as a cautionary tale on what could possibly happen in their own home lands. Yet, the situation in India isn't (and shouldn't be) a mere cautionary tale—it's a humanitarian crisis that has put many of the world's current circumstances in full perspective. There are issues of vaccine equity, politicking, and caution fatigue brought to a national scale.
India, A Success Story?
But how did India get to this point when just a few months ago, it had been lauded as a nationwide success story? In January 2021, the nation of 1 billion was counting a relative low of only 11,000 infections a day. At the World Economic Forum last 28 January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi even boasted that India "had saved the world" and "controlled coronavirus". Then a few weeks later, in mid-February, the Health Minister of the country, Harsh Vardhan, claimed that the pandemic was "in [its] end game" in the country.
India was poised to help export locally manufactured vaccines to other countries. Things were looking good, and a second wave seemed the furthest thing from people—and the government's—minds. Ironically, it's this exact mindset and the inherent "triumphalist" undertones in the government's information dissemination that perhaps first set the current calamity in motion.
People started to relax.
A Cautionary Tale On Complacency
Cricket matches, political protests, and religious festivals were being held mask-less at this point in time. On 17 April 2021, Prime Minister Modi held a large political rally for his campaign, expressing delight at the number of people attending. On that day, 261,394 cases were logged—a far cry from the country's earlier tally of less than 20,000 a day. Images of Hindu followers gathering at the Ganges for the Kumbh Mela festival were also circulating online.
"A Perfect Storm"
All these were significant contributing factors to the current climate in India. But beyond that, there were many more circumstances fuelling the situation. Some thought that India had already achieved herd immunity and felt safe resuming normality. Economic factors—such as the country's relatively small aid budget—also forced workers to leave their homes prematurely. And of course, there's the B.1.617 variant, which contains two worrying mutations: the L452R mutation and the E484K mutation, both of which combined make the virus more transmissible and more difficult for the immune system to elude.
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What's Happening Now?
Global humanitarian efforts have reached out to India. Just recently, Ethereum creator, Vitalik Buterin, donated a billion dollars worth of shiba inu coin for COVID relief in the country. Many others—from both the private and public global sectors—have pooled together funds to help. Locally, India is also focusing on ramping up its vaccination efforts. Whereas earlier in the year, the country had been poised to export their vaccines, now the government is pivoting supply towards its own citizens. Anyone above the age of 18 may now receive a vaccine.
Localised lockdowns have also been implemented in some regions although the country's Prime Minister has been reluctant on that front. The administration is also sending oxygen tankers to various regions facing shortages, pulling out military stockpiles of medical equipment into public hospitals.
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A Look Into The Future
Although it's difficult to predict when and how the coronavirus pandemic will end, we can only hope and pray that it will do so soon. Many other countries are experiencing an uptick in cases and are facing their second or third waves. The best that anyone can do now for India is to pray, donate, and continue to follow health protocol in their own homes and communities. As the United Nations has attested, in this pandemic "no one is safe until everyone is".