Lack Of Medical Help And Poor Government Intervention Has Left India Vulnerable To The Deadly Effects Of COVID-19

COVID-19 has devasted all of India, setting global records for the number of people affected and killed by the deadly virus. Unlike other countries which battled the infection, the inadequate medical services and the short supply of vaccines are the cause of massive panic.

As of right now, less than 2% of the population has been fully vaccinated. Up till May, only those above the age of 45 could receive the vaccine, which limited the wellbeing of a significant amount of people. Millions of vaccines have been distributed, but for it to be fully effective, two doses are required, yet most people have only acquired one dose.

A study back in 2019 showed that for every 14,500 persons, there was only one doctor, which illustrates the lack of medical help available in the country, even without COVID-19 in full swing. To make things worse, those residing in rural areas are in an exceptionally bad position, since only those who are seriously affected by the virus travel miles to receive medical help. Ignoring the initial symptoms is the norm, which leaves room for the virus to spread. Another catastrophe that struck the country was the burning down of a hospital in the city of Gujarat, which killed 16 covid patients and two healthcare workers. The burning down of the healthcare institution illustrates the lack of organization and pure chaos which is engulfing the country. It also doesn’t help that there happens to be a lot of underreporting. Official numbers understate the death toll, demonstrating how the situation is much worse than it may seem on television.

India’s government has received tons of backlash in terms of its response to the pandemic. Back in 2018, the government allocated only 1.28% of its GDP towards healthcare. Being the most populous country and the home of approximately 1.3 billion people, the percentage was extremely low. To put things in perspective, other countries such as the United States spent around 17% of their GDP, even though their population is only 328 million. The government was planning to increase the number to 2.5% by 2025, yet it seems too late for their help to have any sort of effect in the current situation. COVID-19 is already a deadly virus, but more people are dying because of the inability of hospitals to properly help them.

Prime Minister Modi has held meetings to discuss with other government officials to brainstorm ways to scale up oxygen capacities and medical infrastructure, yet most believe their help has been useless. Trains and aircrafts have been sped up to assist the fast transportation of vaccines, yet people are still angry with the government since facilities continue to be overrun. It was reported in Delhi that it was impossible to get beds in the city. People are livid as to why the government has not ordered the military or disaster response teams to build field hospitals. When interviewing citizens, many seem to share the feeling of being completely abandoned and left to fend for themselves, which also fuels hatred and anger towards health officials and politicians.

People were exhausted from the effects of COVID-19 alone, yet India fostered a new variant, referred to as the B.1.617, which spread like wildfire in the country. Known as the double mutant, it happens to be more transmissible and harder for antibodies to fight against, making it even scarier. The Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization expressed her worry about the spread of the variant when she stated how the ‘virus does not respect border, or nationalities or age or sex or religion.’ If the country’s circumstances continue to deteriorate, the variant is bound to spread to neighboring countries and might trigger a new wave of lockdowns worldwide.

The suffering of the Indians has shocked the countries on the road to recovery. Charities in the UK have set up donations to raise money for supplying oxygen and ventilators for India. Even British Indian doctors have been provided advice to healthcare workers through the phone since they have gained experience of dealing with covid through its multiple surges. Although countries have banned flights from India and another South Asian country as a precaution, more efforts need to be made to help India directly. Doctors have claimed that the most effective way of halting the pandemic, is by vaccinating the whole world. Without the vaccine, new waves of infections are bound to happen repeatedly. If the vaccines continue to be scarce, increasingly more dangerous variants will evolve and spread to a point where the vaccine would no longer be effective. That alone marks the current period of time crucial for action. Without implementing change, the virus poses a threat to even the healing countries such as the United States, which took more than a year in its attempts to revert to its original state.

Countries such as the UK which overbought the vaccines should be encouraged to donate a certain percentage of its vaccines. Even though this strategy seems to reduce the effort going into helping the UK, it’s a matter of damage control in India. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Such a form of help would also do well in strengthening the relationship between the two countries for the future. Another way in which countries can support India through such a distressful time is by sending more foreign aid to fund the serum institute in India which is producing the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. This would effectively increase the number of vaccines being administered, which is bound to reduce the number of fatalities. Additionally, using social media and other platforms, people who have had the luxury of being vaccinated or reside in an area that is doing better with the pandemic should be encouraged to donate as much as possible. Lastly, at the most basic level, those living outside of India should be encouraged to take the vaccine to limit the production and spreading of variants. Implementing such measures is the only way left to help India breathe again.