After becoming the first country to record more than 400,000 cases of Covid-19 in a single day, India overtook Mexico and became, on Monday (3), the third country with the highest number of coronavirus deaths, just behind the United States. States and Brazil.
According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and the Our World in Data website, India confirmed 3,417 deaths as of Sunday (2) and reached the threshold of 218,959 deaths – an official figure well below the actual, given that the country of 1.4 billion people faces not only a collapse of the health care system, but also underreporting of cases and deaths.
In the ranking of the countries most affected by the pandemic, the United States remains in first place, with 577,045 deaths. Brazil, with more than 407,000 deaths, ranks second, but of the three countries, it is the one with the highest moving average of deaths in the population proportional calculation. There are 11.32 per million inhabitants, compared to 2.47 in India and 2.06 in the USA.
For members of Insacog, a consortium of scientists set up by the Indian government at the end of December to act as an advisory body, the authorities ignored science advice, and the central government, in particular, did not care about ” impose restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Insacog brings together ten Indian laboratories with the capacity to identify and study virus variants. It was scientists from this consortium, for example, who identified the strain B.1.617, which is now dominant among coronavirus cases in India. In early March, the consortium shared its findings with the local health ministry and warned that new infections could skyrocket in various parts of the country, its members told Reuters news agency.
The ministry made the results public on March 24, but in a press release said the potentially more dangerous variants only required the adoption of measures already underway, such as increased testing and quarantine for infected people. Nothing has been said about imposing stricter restrictions to contain the spread.
“The policy should be based on evidence, not the other way around,” said Shahid Jameel, president of Insacog. “I am afraid that science has not been taken into account in the conduct of policies. But I know where my skill ends. As scientists, we provide evidence; policy making is the job of government.
While it cannot be said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had direct access to the alerts, it is reasonable to expect that as head of state he realized the potential damaging of the third wave of coronavirus in the country, the largest and most deadly than the first two.
Modi, however, said two months ago that Covid was on the verge of being defeated and the Indian population could start to return to normal life. He himself organized huge rallies to leverage his party and authorized the Kumbh Mela festival, which drew millions of Hindus to the waters of the Ganges.
Speaking to the nation on television last month, Modi advised people to keep a distance of two meters and wear masks, shortly after taking part in mega-political events in West Bengal, where he hosted hundreds of thousands of people without a mask.
Later, in another statement, the Prime Minister took a stand against further shutting down India as a strategy to contain the pandemic. “We have to save the country from lockdowns. I call on states to use lockdowns as the last option,” Modi said, referring to the autonomy that state leaders have to lead the pandemic response on their territories. .
At least 11 states and regions have ordered movement restrictions to contain the infections, but Modi is resisting the announcement of national isolation due to the economic impact the move would bring.
The tragedy experienced by the Indians was marked by the lack of oxygen in the scarce hospital beds, by the cremation of the dead due to the lack of more suitable spaces and by the posture of the countries which have closed the doors to Indians by fear. the spread of the variants identified in the country.
The scenario, however, cost Modi a political setback. His party, the BJP, won only 77 of the 292 parliamentary seats in West Bengal, where the prime minister has concentrated his rallies. The defeat of the state of 97 million people represents an obstacle to Modi’s electoral ambitions and, analysts say, a sign that his populist domination can be contained.
Confidence in the way the government is handling the crisis has plummeted since February, when the health crisis worsened again, according to a YouGov survey. In April of last year, 89% of respondents believed the government had handled the coronavirus pandemic “very well” or “reasonably well”. A year later, the most recent data shows that figure has fallen to 59%.
“People are unlikely to forget so quickly the shortage of hospital beds, oxygen and vaccines,” says political commentator Neerja Chowdhury. “They are also unlikely to forget that the central leadership of the BJP made the victory of Bengal their battle to the death, when there is a real struggle between life and death in the country.”
In Assam state, the BJP has managed to stay in power. In Tamil Nadu, the winner was DMK, the main regional opposition party in Modi. In Kerala, the left-wing LDF won the majority, while Modi’s BJP did not guarantee a seat. In Pondicherry, the NDA, a national alliance led by the BJP, comes out on top in all major exit polls.