By Dr Rais Hussin
INDIA does not have the best public health care system in the world. Almost everyone in the world knows it. But India does have an increasing number of billionaires, as confirmed by James Crabtree’s book “The Indian Rajs.” Crabtree is now the Director of the Institute of International and Stratetegic Studies in Singapore.
In Crabtree’s book, one can see that surrounding the tall and stellar residence of the Mukesh Ambani in Mumbai are slums. Areas such as these are lethal vectors of transmission, even though COVID-19 really does not distinguish between the rich and poor.
The rich and famous that were infected by COVID-19 that leads to the lethal infection in 2020 alone reads like a long list of prominent characters that jumped out straight from a horror fiction: Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Hanks; UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson; Prince Charles II; Former US President Donald Trump, his wife and his youngest son Barron Trump; former Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Javier Solana; Idris Alba; Antonio Banderas; Olga Kurleyanko, who starred against Daniel Craig in “Quantum of Solace” the famous James Bond flick.
In India, nor were Bollywood legend such as Amitab Bachan spared of being infected. Nor did his son Abishek Bachan and famous daughter in law Aishwarya Rai Bachan, and her daughter, could evade being confirmed with COVID-19. This all happened in the second week of July 2020.
India’s Prime Minister Nadendra Modi should have understood the pervasive nature of COVID-19, that is, all would be exposed to COVID-19.
Yet, in February, when COVID-19 has been in existence for almost 14 months —- since the first outbreak in Wuhan, China, in Dec 1, 2019 –Modi declared that India has successfully contained COVID-19.
This was followed by the policy of loosening the lock-down; allowing huge social gatherings; and allowing Indians of all ages to ignore the basic need to wear a mask, watch their social distance of two metres at the very least, and wash their hands (3 Ws). All these protocols prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to “test, trace and treat” were ignored too.
As of May 8 2021, India’s health ministry reported 4,187 fatalities over the past 24 hours, taking the overall death toll close to 240,000. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that India will see one million COVID-19 deaths by August 2021.
On the same day, cases rose by 401,078, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 21.9 million. Since the “3 Ts” – trace, test and treat – of India are weak, medical experts claim that the real numbers of COVID-19 cases and fatalities are likely to be far higher than official tallies.
People in India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh are fighting not just a raging pandemic but also a prickly Hindu nationalist local government that many say is in denial.
A full cylinder of oxygen is US$452. Seriously, how many Indians infected by the coronavirus could afford this prohibitive price?
The state authorities, headed by a monk Yogi Adityanath, 48, touted by some as the prospective successor to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, insist there are no shortages and take a dim view of those “spreading fear”.
Meanwhile, there is still no national lock down in India; with barely 3% of the entire population of India being vaccinated. This percentage is 2% more than Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
India must now be ready to fend for themselves, on a scale of death worse than the tragedy that marked the violent separation with India and Pakistan in 1948.
Although the new anti-COVID-19 oral drug, 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG) was jointly developed by India’s state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation and Hyderabad-based Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, it is a palliative treatment: to reduce the need for immediate oxygen. It is not enough to go around with the surge in cases.
Consequently, although it is being produced by the world’s biggest vaccine maker –Serum Institute of India, which is capable of producing one billion dosages a year – India is still struggling to produce and distribute enough doses to stem the wave of COVID-19.
To be sure, the country has administered more than 167 million vaccine doses. But its rate of inoculation has fallen in recent days and only around 2% of its 1.4 billion people have received the two doses needed to be fully immunized.
Furthermore, the infection rates continue to spike and a tank of oxygen could barely last six to eight hours before it has to be refilled. – May 12, 2021
Dr Rais Hussin is President & CEO of EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.