Daily case counts top 300,000 . . .
With an unprecedented daily case count of over 300,000 for the last four days, hospitals across India are struggling to manage the increasing number of hospitalizations amidst widespread shortages of oxygen and ventilators in the country’s hardest-hit states. Crematoria have resorted to building makeshift funeral pyres to handle the surge in COVID-19-related deaths, which according to local reporters, are consistently undercounted. Meanwhile, vaccine and oxygen demand has outstripped supply in major centres across the country due to supply chain issues, obstacles to sourcing raw materials, and an initial lack of investment from the Indian government. This afternoon, Ottawa announced C$10 million in funding for humanitarian assistance through the Red Cross, and some international aid has arrived in the form of oxygen shipments and medical equipment donations. Meanwhile, India has halted vaccine exports. Experts fear that the worst is yet to come.
Political leaders point fingers as courts put their foot down . . .
Despite the crisis, India’s COVID-19 response has been marked in recent weeks by disagreements about the severity of the situation and where responsibility lies for the present failures. Officials have threatened censorship and the use of sedition laws against individuals commenting on the outbreak’s severity. Several state ministers have criticized the national government for placing unfair burdens on states in the procurement of oxygen and vaccines. Following scathing denouncements by state High Courts, the Supreme Court compelled the national government to submit a comprehensive COVID-19 response plan in front of a judicial panel today. And after the Madras High Court declared the Election Commission “singularly responsible” for the current COVID wave by allowing large campaign rallies widely considered super-spreader events, the Commission announced a ban on planned victory processions next week.
Allies pour in aid but stay mum on vaccine patent waiver . . .
The COVID-19 crisis in India has sparked a worldwide outpouring of support. Following a domestic backlash and an aid commitment from China, the United States reversed its former policy of restricting the export of crucial vaccine manufacturing materials, pledging to work with the Indian government to deliver much-needed supplies and stockpiled doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Canada announced this afternoon that it would donate C$10 million to India through the Canadian Red Cross (donate to the Red Cross India COVID-19 Response here). But commentators in India have criticized what they consider a lacklustre showing of solidarity with India. They note that countries like Canada continue to oppose India’s co-sponsored waiver of COVID-19 vaccine patents at the World Trade Organization, which would allow developing countries like India to expand the production of COVID-19 vaccines.