As a second wave of the pandemic rages in India, the world is coming to the rescue.
But it is unlikely to plug enough holes in India’s sinking health care system to fully stop the deadly crisis that is underway, and the health emergency has global implications for new infections worldwide, as well as for countries relying on India for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“It’s a desperate situation out there,” said Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan, the founder and director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, adding that donations will be welcome, but may only make a “limited dent on the problem.”
In the early months of 2021, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi acted as if the coronavirus battle had been won, holding huge campaign rallies and permitting thousands to gather for a Hindu religious festival.
Oxygen Supplies Run Out
Patients are suffocating in the capital, New Delhi, and other cities because hospitals’ oxygen supplies have run out.
Frantic relatives have appealed on social media for leads on intensive-care unit beds and experimental drugs. Funeral pyres have spilled over into parking lots and city parks.
Now, Mr. Modi appears to be looking to the rest of the world to help India quell its seemingly unstoppable coronavirus wave.
Huge Rise In Cases
A global coronavirus surge, largely driven by the devastation in India, continues to break daily records and run rampant in much of the world, even as vaccinations steadily ramp up in wealthy countries. More than one billion shots have now been given globally.
On Sunday, the world’s seven-day average of new cases hit 774,404, according to a New York Times database, higher than the peak average during the last global surge, in January. Despite the number of shots given around the world, far too few of the global population of nearly eight billion have been vaccinated to slow the virus’s steady spread.
Vaccinations have been highly concentrated in wealthy nations: 82 percent of shots worldwide have been given in high- and upper-middle-income countries, according to data compiled by the Our World in Data project. Only 0.2 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries.
On Monday, India broke the world record for daily coronavirus infections for a fifth consecutive day, reporting nearly 353,000 new cases. And it added 2,812 deaths to its overall toll of more than 195,000, which experts say may be a vast undercount.
White House’s Decision
Facing increased pressure, the White House said Sunday that it had removed impediments to the export of raw materials for vaccines and would also supply India with therapeutics, test kits, ventilators and personal protective gear.
“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, we are determined to help India in its time of need,” Mr. Biden said on Twitter.
The Biden administration then said Monday that it would share up to 60 million AstraZeneca doses from its stockpile with other countries in the coming months, so long as they clear a safety review being conducted by the Food and Drug Administration.
Mr. Biden’s response to India at its time of crisis has come under scrutiny, raising questions of how far the administration has actually moved away from former President Donald J. Trump’s “America First” foreign policies.