The Lancet is one of the oldest and most well-known journals on general medicine. It has been highly critical of the Indian government’s handling of the second wave of the pandemic. An editorial released by the journal on 8th May, titled “India’s COVID-19 Emergency” delves into where the Modi government went wrong and caused the deaths of 1000s of people in India.
Here is a simplified breakdown of what the article spoke about.
The article begins by mentioning how “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 government sanctioning and active promotion of religious events like the Kumbh Mela acted as superspreader events.
The messaging that COVID-19 was over, that the government constantly started to highlight in February and March has also led to the disastrous second wave we are facing now. “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 Journal points out that this messaging that COVID was over in India led to fewer people taking the vaccine in the initial stages before the second wave started. Urgency and a faster roll-out and availability of vaccines were desperately needed, as the Lancet points out that only 2% of India’s population is vaccinated.
On the policy itself, the journal says “ At the federal level, India’s vaccination plan soon fell apart. The government abruptly shifted course without discussing the change in policy with states, expanding vaccination to everyone older than 18 years, draining supplies, and creating mass confusion and a market for vaccine doses in which states and hospital systems competed.”
According to The Lancet, “The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that India will see a staggering 1 million deaths from COVID-19 by Aug 1. 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. Until April, the government’s COVID-19 taskforce had not met in a month.”
The article goes onto say that India can fight this crisis with responsible governance, ie the Central Government owning up to its mistakes, being more transparent, and keeping science at the heart of its public health response.
Seeing the current response (or the lack thereof) of the BJP to the raging pandemic, and the active suppression of criticism either legally or through its IT Cell, the chances of this responsible governance remains slim.
As the Lancet points out, “At times, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government has seemed more intent on removing criticism on Twitter than trying to control the pandemic.”