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India could see 1 million deaths due to Covid by August, Lancet says

A Lancet editorial quotes estimates by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. While criticising India’s handling of the crisis, it suggests increasing vaccination pace.

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New Delhi: India could potentially see one million deaths due to the Covid-19 pandemic by 1 August, an editorial in the Lancet journal said Saturday.

The editorial quoted estimates by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), a global health research organisation, for the one-million projection.

“If that outcome were to happen, Modi’s Government would be responsible for presiding over a self-inflicted national catastrophe. India squandered its early successes in controlling Covid-19,” the editorial said.

While the one million figure is only a projection, India has so far witnessed over 2,38,000 deaths due to Covid — over 4,000 deaths were recorded Friday.

Since the second Covid wave jolted the country last month, social media has been flooded with desperate pleas for oxygen beds, ventilators and basic medical resources, with the health infrastructure stretched to its limits.

According to other IHME projections that have been linked in the Lancet editorial, the daily deaths in India in August will be close to 2,000, while the estimated daily infections will be around 5,23,000.

Also read: Modi govt is in denial & India is back to being a flailing state

‘Government gave impression that India had beaten Covid-19’

The editorial also sharply criticised the Modi government over how it dropped the ball ahead of the second Covid surge.

“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-19 mitigation measures,” the editorial said.

“At times, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government has seemed more intent on removing criticism on Twitter than trying to control the pandemic,” it added.

The editorial also criticised Health Minister Harsh Vardhan for announcing in early March that India is in the endgame of Covid.

“The impression from the government was that India had beaten COVID-19 after several months of low case counts, despite repeated warnings of the dangers of a second wave and the emergence of new strains,” the editorial said.

“The message that COVID-19 was essentially over also slowed the start of India’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, which has vaccinated less than 2% of the population.”

Two-pronged strategy

To fix the situation, the Lancet editorial highlighted a two-pronged strategy for the government to pursue.

“First, the botched vaccination campaign must be rationalised and implemented with all due speed,” the editorial said.

It added that there are two bottlenecks that need to be overcome: one, the vaccine supply needs to be raised, with some imports; and secondly, a distribution campaign that can cover not just urban but also rural and poorer citizens needs to be set up to ensure a more equitable distribution.

The editorial then recommended measures to reduce the transmission of the virus as much as possible, while the vaccine is being rolled out.

“As cases continue to mount, the government must publish accurate data in a timely manner, and forthrightly explain to the public what is happening and what is needed to bend the epidemic curve, including the possibility of a new federal lockdown,” it said.

“Modi’s actions in attempting to stifle criticism and open discussion during the crisis are inexcusable,” it added.

Also read: ‘Worrying signs’: Covid hits rural India hard, it now has nearly half of all new cases


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