India's health ministry on Thursday reported a global pandemic record of 314,835 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours as the South Asian country is ravaged by a catastrophic wave of infections that is overwhelming already-strained medical facilities, leading to severe shortages of oxygen, hospital beds, and other critical supplies.
"Victory was declared prematurely and that ebullient mood was communicated across the country, especially by politicians who wanted to get the economy going and get back to campaigning."
—K. Srinath Reddy, Public Health Foundation of India
Critics were quick to blame the exploding case count on the far-right government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who just Saturday boasted that he had "never ever seen such huge crowds" as he addressed tens of thousands of supporters at a campaign rally in West Bengal. That same day, India reported 1,341 coronavirus deaths.
On Wednesday, the country reported a record-shattering 2,104 deaths from Covid-19 as experts fear a more contagious "double mutant" strain of the virus is driving the surge.
K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, slammed the nation's political leadership for failing to implement adequate safety measures and effectively communicate to the public that the pandemic "had not gone away."
"Victory was declared prematurely and that ebullient mood was communicated across the country, especially by politicians who wanted to get the economy going and wanted to get back to campaigning," Reddy told The Guardian. "And that gave the virus the chance to rise again."
In a dispatch from the ground in Delhi, the epicenter of the surge, the BBC's India correspondent Yogita Limaye said the massive spike in cases and deaths is "what's been feared would happen since the pandemic began."
"But once the first wave subsided, the government almost declared victory over Covid-19," Limaye noted. "The country's been caught unprepared."
This report by the BBC on India's Covid-19 crisis will shake you to the core. Incredibly disturbing.
The Modi govt literally has the blood of innocents on its hands, and yet, all they're still doing is filthy politics instead of taking responsibility.
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT
Never Miss a Beat.
Get our best delivered to your inbox.
— Saket Gokhale (@SaketGokhale) April 22, 2021
India's 24-hour case count of nearly 315,000 surpasses the previous daily record set by the United States, which recorded more than 313,000 new infections on January 8.
"As cases worldwide reach weekly records, a substantial proportion of the infections are coming from India, a sobering reminder that the pandemic is far from over, even as infections decline and vaccinations speed ahead in the United States and other wealthy parts of the world," the New York Times reported Thursday. "India has surpassed 15.6 million total infections, second most after the United States."
"Patents should be disregarded and technology transferred as needed to maximize global vaccine production everywhere."
—Dr. Adam Gaffney
In an effort to ramp up production of coronavirus vaccines to fight the global surge, India has joined South Africa in pushing a proposal at the World Trade Organization to waive certain intellectual property rules that are keeping vaccine formulas under the total control of a few major pharmaceutical companies.
The patent waiver is supported by more than a 100 countries as well as hundreds of civil society groups, Nobel Prize-winning economists, and the head of the World Health Organization, but rich nations—including the U.S. and European Union members—have repeatedly blocked the proposal.
According to the latest figures from Our World in Data, India has fully vaccinated just 1.3% of its population. The country announced Monday that on May 1, its vaccination program will be opened to any person older than 18 in an effort to combat the devastating rise in cases.
Dr. Adam Gaffney, a critical care physician and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, said late Wednesday that the international community "should be diverting vaccine stock to India now" in response to the "absolutely horrifying surge."
"Patents should be disregarded and technology transferred as needed to maximize global vaccine production everywhere," Gaffney added.