Complacency breeds failure. Just because things are going well now doesn’t mean they can’t suddenly go horribly wrong. This is the reality in India, as they battle a new wave of COVID-19 which is more destructive than any previous variant of the virus. The nation relaxed in its partial success and now have to deal with the devastating nature and consequences of a national COVID-19 outbreak.
“It can be said with pride, India…defeated COVID-19 under the able, sensible, committed and visionary leadership of Prime Minister Modi…the party unequivocally hails its leadership for introducing India to the world as a proud and victorious nation in the fight against COVID.”
Those were the words of a resolution passed by India’s government in February. The number of cases, although not zero, was steadily declining, with the number of new infections decreasing below 10,000 per day for the first time since June 2020. However, the rejoicing was short-lived, with cases exponentially rising since March. In fact, in the last week alone, there have been over 2.3 million new infections of COVID-19 in India. 2.3 million.
The extreme and unpredictable rise of cases has left hospitals running out of oxygen and beds. More than 2,000 people per day are losing their lives to the virus, and the actual number of deaths could likely be much larger than that.
For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his excessive confidence in declaring victory too early is a mistake that is difficult to forgive. Throughout the entire pandemic, we have seen the consequence of hubris. Numerous leaders worldwide have made fundamental errors in acting too slowly or relaxing in moderate success, leading to secondary waves of the virus. In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro supported anti-lockdown protesters before a rampant wave of the virus ravaged the nation. In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson locked down the country too late and refused to acknowledge the threat of subsequent waves of the virus.
The mistakes made by the Indian government are not new, they have been consistently made by leaders around the world, and the Indian people have every right to protest against their leader’s inability to recognise the reality of their position. While cases began to slowly rise, Modi held large election rallies and rejoiced in the large turnout. We don’t just have to learn from our own mistakes, but we also need to learn from the mistakes of people around us.
It’s not what we want to hear, but it seems almost certain that the latest outbreak in India will prolong the impact of COVID-19 on the world for many more months. Countries have been slow to introduce stringent quarantine measures for passengers arriving from India, which is particularly dangerous due to the new variants of the virus being more transmissible. It means that in areas where the virus may have been eliminated, it could now re-surface rapidly, forcing many governments to re-introduce national lockdown restrictions.
Furthermore, most nations were relying on vaccines produced by the Serum Institute factor in India. The government decided to restrict exports of doses to deal with its own outbreak; however, the global initiative to ensure equitable access to vaccines, known as COVAS, relied upon Indian-manufactured vaccines and have currently only delivered 2% of the doses it expected to deliver this year. The suspension of the exportation of vaccines from India will only slow down this process, and extend the pandemic into 2022.
To the Indian people, we are thinking of you and wish you safety and security from the virus. It seems like an impossible situation to improve; however, if communities come together to eliminate the virus in their regions, a brighter future is ahead.
To other governments around the world, it is vital that we help and support the Indian people at this time. Britain recently sent 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators to India, and the US, Germany, Israel and Pakistan have also promised medical aid. I hope that the international community can rally together and support the nation during this overwhelmingly complex and challenging period.
No team can be left behind in the fight to eradicate COVID-19. India is suffering from a devastating wave, and we must assist them through words and actions.