India's immediate concern is to break the chain of Covid infection

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION
New Delhi Published: May 03, 2021, 11:28 PM(IST)

A paramedic uses an oximeter to check the oxygen level of a patient inside an ambulance while waiting to enter a COVID-19 hospital for treatment, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ahmedabad, India, April 22, 2021. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Is a peak in sight? What do the numbers say? Is a national lockdown inevitable?

India's pandemic nightmare refuses to end. Deadly shortages continue. Hoarding and black marketing of essential supplies are making matters worse.

Is a peak in sight? What do the numbers say? Is a national lockdown inevitable?

The numbers are not getting any better. The deadly second wave gripped the country in April.

That's last month. In one month, nearly seven million people were infected. More than 48,000 have died.

 

And the virus is still spreading. In the last 24 hours, India has again reported more than 300,000 new cases. On Saturday, over 400,000 people had tested positive. That's the highest ever.

For 12 straight days now, India has been adding more than 300,000  cases everyday. This takes india's total caseload close to 20 million now. India now has more than 3.4 million active cases. They now represent over 17 per cent of the caseload. 10 states and union territories account for more than 73 per cent of the new cases.

More than 16 million people have recovered. Over 300,000 people tested negative in the last 24 hours. The recovery rate remains steady at over 80 percent.

But the number of causalities is alarmingly high. More than 3,400 people died in the last 24 hours.

Is this the worst case scenario? Scientists say it could be.

New infections could peak this week. A team of scientists that is advising the government has come up with a mathematical model to make predictions. They're trying to answer the question that is on everyone's mind.

When will this surge end?

They believe the curve will touch its peak this week, between the third and the fifth of May. 

On what basis do they say this? The fall in positivity rate.

What is that?

It's basically the percentage of all Wuhan virus tests that came back positive. So if 100 people test and 30 of them are positive, then the positivity rate is 30 per cent.

Right now, India's positivity rate is 21.19 per cent. On Sunday, it was 21.25 per cent. So there's a very very slight dip.

The difference is barely 0.06 per cent.

Does it even dent the surge?

Last year, the WHO had recommended that positivity levels must remain at five per cent or less for at least 14 days for governments to unlock and for people to resume their lives.

India's positivity rate is well over 20 per cent. So we have a long way to go before we can say that the pandemic is under control. In fact, the road ahead doesn't look easy.

Pharma companies say there will be a drug shortage. That's because the cases have exploded, and the supply is limited. At least two reports say that the prices of active pharmaceutical ingredients or API have shot up.

These are basically raw materials used to make medicines.

The price of these raw materials have gone up by 30 to 200 per cent.

What explains this? Two things.

One, the rising demand has led to hoarding.

And two, supply disruptions from China.

Remember, India still imports 70 per cent of its pharmaceutical raw materials from China.

Last week, China's state-run Sichuan Airlines suspended 11 cargo flights to India. Their cargo included raw materials for pharma companies. China insists there's no disruption in exports to India.

But this airline is yet to announce a schedule for its India flights. And that means India is staring at a drug shortage.

What about vaccines?

They're still locked up in patents.

Last week, we told you how countries like the US and the UK were blocking India's bid to get patent waivers. Today, we can tell you they still haven't changed their minds. The United States remains non-committal on a waiver. Today, the govt was asked about it.

It said America is still discussing all options with its partners. There was no mention of the waiver.

"We are working with our global partners to explore pragmatic and effective steps to surge production and equitable distribution of vaccines," a United States Trade Representative official told VOA.

While this battle continues, India's immediate concern is to control the caseload and break the chain of infection.

Is another lockdown the only option?

India's leading industry body, Confederation of Indian Industry's (CII) president Uday Kotak endorsed another lockdown today.

"The CII calls for maximal measures at the national level including curtailing economic activity to reduce suffering," he said

Already at least 11 states and union territories have imposed some form of restrictions.

But there's no word on a national lockdown.

It's a tough decision to make aftet all. Lives and livelihoods, both must be protected.

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