India could see 1 million Covid-19 deaths by August 1, says Lancet

A group of people reacts at the cremation of a Covid-19 victim in Delhi
India could see a staggering 1 million deaths from Covid-19 by August 1, according to an editorial in the British medical journal Lancet. If that outcome were to happen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government would be responsible for presiding over a self-inflicted national catastrophe, the top peer reviewed journal said on Friday.

 

So far, 234,083 have died of Covid-19 in the country so far, according to the Union Health Ministry data.

 

The Lancet editorial quoted the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent global health research organisation, in giving its projection for a million deaths by August 1. “India squandered its early successes in controlling Covid-19. Until April, the government’s Covid-19 taskforce had not met in months,” the editorial said.

 

The science journal said that India must now restructure its response while the crisis rages. “The success of that effort will depend on the government owning up to its mistakes, providing responsible leadership and transparency, and implementing a public health response that has science at its heart.”

 

Lancet, in its editorial, has suggested that India should adopt a two-pronged strategy. It said that the “botched vaccination” campaign must be rationalised and implemented speedily. For this, it should increase the vaccine supply and set up a distribution campaign that can cover not just urban but also rural and poorer citizens.

 

Secondly, India needs to control transmission of the virus, publish accurate data in a timely manner and explain to the public what is happening and what is needed to bend the epidemic curve, including the possibility of a new federal lockdown.  “Modi’s actions in attempting to stifle criticism and open discussion during the crisis are inexcusable,” Lancet said. 

 

Genome sequencing too needs to be expanded to better track, understand, and control emerging and more transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants, it said.

 

In a sharp criticism of the government strategy, Lancet said despite warnings about the risks of superspreader events, the government allowed religious festivals to go ahead, drawing millions of people from around the country, along with huge political rallies—conspicuous for their lack of Covid mitigation measures.

 

It also noted that modelling suggested falsely that India had reached herd immunity, encouraging complacency and insufficient preparation. “At times, Modi’s government has seemed more intent on removing criticism on Twitter than trying to control the pandemic.”


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