India is battling a Covid surge that is unprecedented in its ferocity. The active caseload in the country constituted 16.90% of the total positive cases so far and stood at 3,170,228. A cumulative of 286,392,086 samples have been tested so far in the country. Meanwhile, 297,540 patients have been discharged in the last 24 hours, with which the overall recoveries rose to 15,384,418 as of April 29, 2021.
India has administered 152 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine as on April 29, 2021, with approximately 3 million new doses being administered everyday. India also has the third highest number of vaccinations after China and United States of America. The Covid-19 vaccination drive is also set to enter its next phase from May 1 to include all people above the age of 18 years.
Though a second wave was anticipated and preparations put in place to tackle it, yet it was difficult to gauge the true extent and scale of it. During and after the first wave, multiple measures were initiated by the Centre and states for revamping response infrastructure. The cases in India had declined by 90% from September, 2020 to January, 2021. The flattening of the first wave, and the confidence from vaccine development all these contributed to us not anticipating the size of this current surge.
The reasons for the extraordinary intensity of the second wave are still being looked into. But, three factors are likely to be at play — public behaviour, increased susceptibility of the population, and new variants of the virus. Specifically, herd immunity which was seen as an important reason for limiting the spread of virus in India may not be much effective against the newer mutant strains of the virus.
As India battles the worst wave of covid so far this comes as a warning to other countries as well to be vigilant and not let their guard down particularly of the much more contagious mutant strains of the virus.
The Economic Impact
Indian economy was well on the road to recovery before the new virus wave hit. In its latest edition of World Economic Outlook, IMF said it expects India’s GDP to grow 12.5 per cent in FY2021-22, the highest among emerging and advanced economies. However, an unprecedented rise in Covid-19 cases is likely to slow down India’s economic recovery, but the overall impact will likely be milder in comparison to last year. The extent of economic loss during the second wave will primarily depend on how fast the chain of infections can be broken.
Steps taken by the Government to overcome the crisis
The Government of India is taking all necessary steps to ensure that we are prepared well to face the challenge and threat posed by the growing pandemic of COVID-19. All arms of the Government are working unitedly & rapidly to deal with the situation.
The Central Government, in coordination with the states, is building up infrastructure in the form of ramping up hospital beds, PSA oxygen facilities, resolving issues in production, storage & transport of Oxygen, and tackling matters relating to the availability of essential medicines. The Government is also undertaking measures to support the vulnerable population by providing food grains and financial support.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the Government would procure 100 thousand portable oxygen concentrators and install 500 more Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) oxygen plants from the PM Cares Fund. Establishing PSA plants and procurement of portable oxygen concentrators will greatly augment the supply of Oxygen near the demand clusters, thereby addressing the current logistical challenges in transporting Oxygen from plants to hospitals.
Serum Institute of India, one of the largest vaccine makers in the world is expected to produce about 70 million doses of Covishield in May, and Bharat Biotech an additional 20 million doses of Covaxin to be administered through the Government run largest vaccination drive in the world. Atleast 3 other vaccines are in pipeline.
The Prime Minister also held a meeting with the Chief of Defence Staff to evaluate the preparedness of armed forces and use its expertise to help fight the battle against COVID 19. The medical staff of the Army is being made available to various state governments, and the Army is setting up temporary hospitals in different parts of the country. Armed forces are also helping with human resources for imported Oxygen tankers and vehicles where specialized skills are required to manage them.
Around 40 nations worldwide have announced medical supplies and assistance to help India deal with the crisis. Indian and foreign corporations are helping with procurements, and Indian community associations in many countries are also pitching in to provide relief materials. India expects to receive more than 500 oxygen generating plants, more than 4,000 oxygen concentrators, more than 10,000 oxygen cylinders, and 17 cryogenic oxygen tankers. The scheduled arrival of 5 million doses of Russian vaccine SputnikV by June will also greatly assist in India’s massive vaccination program. Biopharmaceutical major Gilead Sciences has offered 450,000 doses of the antiviral medication Remdesivir while India expects to get some300,000 doses of Remdesivir from Egypt soon, 300,000 doses of Favipiravir from Russia and the United Arab Emirates and consignments of Tocilizumab from Germany and Switzerland.
It is hoped that with the combined efforts of everyone, a significantly ramped up healthcare system by the government and with international support India will be able to successfully tide over the second wave and flatten the curve. In this effort India looks forward to closely working with Egypt at all levels of cooperation and collaboration. We would also like to thank President Sisi for his gracious message of sympathy, expressing solidarity with Government and people of India during this difficult phase of the pandemic.