Since for 35 years I was a member of a religious organization headquartered in India, I have a special interest in how that country has been doing during the Covid pandemic.
Recently I've been seeing dire stories about rapidly increasing Covid cases and deaths in India.
The reasons for the deteriorating situation are complex, but a big part of the blame seems to be related to factors that have been evident here in the United States, especially during the time Trump was president.
Namely, poor leadership from those in charge of the country; declaring victory over Covid prematurely; allowing large religious and political gatherings in the midst of the pandemic; failing to communicate the importance of wearing masks and following other public health advice.
Here's excerpts from a Washington Post story today, "India's 1.6 million new covid-19 cases in the past week are breaking its health system."
And these are excerpts from a New York Times opinion piece, "India's Second Covid Wave is Completely Out of Control."
A lethal, fast-paced second wave of the coronavirus pandemic has brought India’s health care systems to the verge of collapse and is putting millions of lives and livelihoods at risk.
On Sunday and Monday, the country recorded more than 270,000 and 259,000 cases, respectively, of Covid-19, a staggering increase from about 11,000 cases per day in the second week of February. Reported coronavirus infections shot up from about 20,000 per day in mid-March to more than 200,000 by mid-April.
The newspapers and social media are scrolls of horror and failure of the health system. There are reports of lines of ambulances with patients waiting outside the largest Covid facility in Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat because ventilator beds and oxygen had run out.
...How did things change so dramatically between March and April?
India’s rapid slide into this unprecedented crisis is a direct result of complacency and lack of preparation by the government. As the number of cases dropped significantly in mid-February, the Indian government and various policymakers, cheered on by a pliant, triumphalist media, prematurely declared victory against the pandemic. By early March, senior government ministers were speaking about the endgame of the pandemic in India.
Cricket matches where tens of thousands of spectators filled stadiums were allowed, and movie theaters were opened. The government did nothing to prevent enormous religious gatherings such as the ongoing Kumbh Mela, a festival in Haridwar in the northern state of Uttarakhand, where millions of Hindus gathered for a dip in the River Ganges. Unsurprisingly, Covid-19 cases in Haridwar have soared.
...The mass political, religious and sporting events, which are extensively covered by the Indian media, sent mixed messages about the seriousness of the pandemic. Popular impatience to get back to earlier lives made things worse. Indians started mixing widely and playing down the threat also because there is an unfounded sense among a large number of Indians that exposure to pollution and microbes had endowed them with superior immunity.
...The risk of getting infected through exposure to someone with the coronavirus is no different in India. The proportion of people who died after a Covid-19 diagnosis is lower in India compared with many other countries. But that is simply because 65 percent of Indians are under 35 years old.
Indians with Covid-19 ages 40 to 70 were more likely to have died in India because of the high prevalence of comorbidities like hypertension, diabetes and respiratory disorders. Covid-19 patients in our study in their 40s in India were twice as likely to die as Covid-19 patients in the corresponding age group in the United States. The rate was 75 percent higher in India than in the United States when we compared patients in their 50s.
Dealing with Covid-19 is tough enough without politicians like Modi and Trump making things worse by failing to follow public health science. Hopefully India will find better ways to handle the current wave of Covid cases.