Modi’s War Against Covid: From ‘Timely & Tough’ to ‘Worrying’

Press in the West attacks the prime minister for faulty decisions in managing the worsening Coronavirus crisis

Modi’s War Against Covid: From ‘Timely & Tough’ to ‘Worrying’
Modi’s War Against Covid: From ‘Timely & Tough’ to ‘Worrying’
Indrishka Bose - 12 May 2021

When the second Covid wave ransacks India with thousands of lives lost every day, the media in the West flays the government for failing to handle the crisis.

The New York Times sees the world divided into two: One, where wealthy nations are well stocked with Covid vaccines and gaining control of the virus, and two, the rest that continues to run rampant. And, India ranks high in the second group with daily infections hovering at four lakhs and deaths mounting over 4,000.

“India made the incorrect assumption that it was finished with the Covid-19 pandemic and opened up prematurely that has left the country in such dire straits,” Dr Anthony Fauci, an American expert in infectious diseases and the chief medical advisor to the president, told senators on Tuesday.

The media has been most vocal about the public events that played a super-spreader of the contagion in India. The IPL was scheduled despite fierce criticism and was accused of being “tone-deaf” for its stance.

“Movie theatres were opened and the government permitted enormous religious gatherings such as the Kumbh Mela, a festival in which millions of Hindus gathered to bathe in the river Ganges,” The Washington Post wrote.

BCCI took a somewhat different stance, seeing IPL as an entertainment that provides solace to people in hard times. “It’s probably more important now to hold the IPL, when there is so much negativity around,” a senior Indian cricket board official told news agency Reuters. Later, the BCCI suspended IPL after players tested positive for Covid-19.

The World Health Organisation classified the variant, B.1.617 first identified in India in October last year, as a strain of global concern. On May 12, 2021, the WHO declared that the variant which was behind the acceleration of India’s explosive outbreak has been detected in 44 countries in all six WHO regions.

The pandemic in India took a record toll of 4,205 lives in the country and infected 3,48,421 people in the last 24 hours.

Criticising India’s overconfidence in handling the crisis, Fauci said, “One of the important things is don’t ever underestimate the situation.”

The Australian crowned Narendra Modi as a “crowd-loving prime minister” in an article with the headline, Modi leads India into a viral apocalypse. “Even as death and despair stalked the nation, Modi and his ruling BJP rejected lockdown and forged ahead with mass gatherings,” the newspaper wrote.

Scientific journal Nature accused the Indian and Brazilian governments of side-lining the scientists, when letters from researchers asking for better access to data such as Covid test results and other clinical outcomes were repeatedly ignored. “It’s never good when research communities have a difficult relationship with their national governments. But this can be fatal in the middle of a pandemic — when decisions need to be swift and evidence-based,” the Nature wrote in an editorial piece.

It blamed Modi for making Covid diagnostic tests inaccessible to the Indian Council of Medical Research, except for certain experts in the government. “On April 29, many of India’s leading scientists signed an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, blaming the country’s inability to control infections on, in large part, epidemiological data not being systematically collected and released.”

The WHO had last year hailed Modi’s “timely and tough” decisions to put the stopper on Covid-19. But the commendation turned into a concern when the second wave stormed India. On May 11, 2021, WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan termed India’s catastrophe as “worrying” and called on governments to boost exercises on reporting actual numbers.

Medical journal Lancet, while defining the second wave as a “self-inflicted national catastrophe”, advised India to pursue a two-pronged strategy. “First, the botched vaccination campaign must be rationalised and implemented with all due speed. And, second, India must reduce the transmission as much as possible while the vaccine is rolled out.”

When the sky is already dark in India, there is a fresh swirling of darker clouds as VK Paul, Niti Aayog Member (Health), stated that mucormycosis, a fungal infection, is being found in Covid-19 patients and largely in cases of those who are diabetic. Its overall mortality rate is 50 per cent and can be triggered by the use of steroids.

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