As India becomes the global epicenter of Covid-19, the country faces the anti-science government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and indifference from one side public safety protocols.
On Thursday (15), India recorded 200,739 coronavirus infections in a single day, the highest record since the start of the pandemic in the country, while Modi’s government allowed millions of people to participate in Hindu religious festivals and political rallies in states holding elections.
Public health experts say the second wave was prompted by a complete disregard for restrictions placed on tackling the virus, especially by crowds who don’t wear masks and congregate in large metropolitan areas for political rallies and demonstrations. religious events.
Nearly 5 million Hindu worshipers huddle side by side on the banks of the Ganges for a sacred dip during the Kumbh Mela festival in Haridwar, in the northern state of Uttrakhand, run by BJP. The month-long celebration is Hinduism’s biggest celebration, with devotees coming from all over the country for a ritual bath. The organizers predict that a total of 150 million people will come to the pilgrimage site by the river.
“Any kind of meeting will increase the spread of the virus. The government must impose protocols to ensure appropriate behavior, so that these events do not become too scattered, ”says Dorairaj Prabhakaran, of the Public Health Foundation of India, an educational and research institute.
Politicians and ministers in the Modi government, however, attended the party without wearing masks, and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat said “no one will be arrested in the name of Covid-19, because we are sure that faith in God will overcome the fear of the virus “. Rawat took an active part in the celebration, with a mask around his neck, not his face.
At least 2,167 worshipers were diagnosed with Covid at the event site, which, of course, raised fears that the festival could become a super spreader of the virus. Despite the record outbreak of cases in India, which has earned the sad distinction of the second most affected country in the world, with more than 14 million infections, authorities have said Kumbh Mela will continue until April 30.
Much of the blame for India’s failure to control the pandemic lies with its political leaders, who preach caution on television but are negligent in public. Millions of people participated in rallies in five states that will be elected, helping to increase the number of cases of the disease.
Speaking to the nation on TV last week, Modi advised people to keep a distance of 2 meters and wear masks, shortly after attending rallies in West Bengal, where he hosted hundreds of thousands of people without a mask. The Prime Minister and his Home Secretary, Amit Shah, waged an intense campaign, with Shah often seen without a mask.
“Political leaders themselves are responsible for increasing contamination by allowing crowded gatherings,” says Subhash Salunke, a former World Health Organization (WHO) official who advises the worst-affected state, Maharashtra. “The uptrend will stay here for a few more weeks.”
As Covid cases continue to rise, migrant workers are starting to quit their jobs in cities and return to their villages, fearing the sudden announcement of a nationwide lockdown like last year, which forced them to march hundreds of kilometers to get home.
With hospitals full of coronavirus patients, doctors and officials are calling on Modi to extend vaccination to younger people and impose a limited-time lockdown. Six states have imposed mini-lockdowns and nighttime curfews, while the prime minister rules out a nationwide lockdown.
Experts say the restrictions could cripple the country’s economy, which was slowly recovering from the initial setback. Still, Rijo M. John, assistant professor at Rajagiri College of Social Sciences in Kochi, believes that the pandemic has spread widely and that there may be micro-locks in several affected pockets, “in a way that no ‘not seriously affect livelihood “.
We also wondered about the low case fatality rate in India (125.45 / 1 million inhabitants), despite the second number of confirmed cases in the world, behind only the United States, whose case fatality rate is of 1,705.13 / 1 million. Brazil, on the other hand, has a figure of 1,702.51 / 1 million in this regard.
Given the sharp differences in the number of cases and deaths across the country, Indian authorities are likely to count fewer deaths from Covid. According to data from India’s General Register, only 77% of deaths are officially registered and only 22% of them are certified by doctors.
“In India, even in the best of cases, only 1 in 5 deaths are recorded by a doctor,” says Ramanan Laxminarayan, founder and director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policies, a group of health thinkers. Stressing that the lethality of Covid in India is not lower than that of other countries, Laxminarayan estimates that the deaths attributed to Covid-19 are, in fact, between 1 million and 2 million. Today, the country officially records 173,123 deaths from the coronavirus.
In dealing with the pandemic, experts say the Modi government offered a false sense of hope and victory and ultimately brought the country into neglect. Even before the pandemic, public health experts accused the prime minister’s government of promoting pseudoscience and putting millions of lives at risk.
In February, India approved a herbal cocktail, Coronil, as an anti-Covid drug, four months after allowing people trained in the ancient alternative practice of Ayurveda to perform surgery , which prompted a reaction from healthcare professionals.