NEW DELHI: The government of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is under fire with criticism pouring in from all over for ignoring the lethality of the ongoing wave of COVID-19 that has led to alarming death rate in the country. The medical journal The Lancet has severely criticised the Narendra Modi government for its handling of the COVID-19 crisis in India, saying it has given the impression of being more occupied with “removing criticism on Twitter than trying to control the pandemic”.
The editorial of the world’s oldest and best-known general medical journals minced no words, saying that India’s top government officials prematurely declared victory over the pandemic, highlighting health minister Harsh Vardhan’s comment that ‘India is in the endgame’, leading to “complacency and insufficient preparation”.
“The modelling suggested falsely that India had reached herd immunity, encouraging complacency and insufficient preparation, but a survey by the Indian Council of Medical Research in January suggested that only 21% of the population had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2,” the editorial says. The editorial comes at a time when many Indians are struggling to find hospital beds and oxygen cylinders for COVID-19 patients who require critical care. On Saturday, India reported its highest death toll yet due to COVID-19, recording 4,187 fatalities. The country also reported 401,078 new infection, the third consecutive day with more than 0.4 million new cases.
The journal also criticised the government’s decision, despite warnings, to allow religious and political congregations. These events are “conspicuous for their lack of COVID-19 mitigation measures”, the editorial said. “The message that COVID-19 was essentially over also slowed the start of India’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, which has vaccinated less than 2% of the population. 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,” The Lancet said.
The journal said that the country’s “botched” vaccination campaign must immediately be rationalised and implemented with all due speed. It saw two immediate bottlenecks: increasing vaccine supply (some of which should come from abroad) and setting up a distribution campaign that will also cover rural and poorer citizens, who “face a desperate scarcity of public health and primary care facilities”. “The government must work with local and primary health-care centres that know their communities and create an equitable distribution system for the vaccine,” it suggested.