With 435 days of the COVID-19 pandemic, India’s second surge saw 3,25,132 new cases; 3790 recorded deaths on May 10; weekly case fatality rate (CFR) of 1.19% and an overall CFR of 1.42%. Over almost a month, distressing images of burning funeral pyres and frightening stories of people dying gasping for breath due to lack of oxygen, filled us with gloom and despair.
The World Health Organisation has now classified the variant first spotted in India as a “global variant of concern”, saying that preliminary studies had shown that it may be more transmissible than some other variants. The UK PM also remarked on the need to carefully monitor the so-called Indian variant. This new variant has been added to those already circulating, popularly known as the Brazil, South Africa and UK variants. The fast transmitting variants cause havoc by the sudden upsurge in cases that could overwhelm even the most advanced healthcare systems. Indian healthcare system is also being tested as never before, with a workforce stretched beyond endurance as it tries to cope with this massive surge.
In the midst of this crisis came the news that two members of the Indian delegation to the G7 in the UK had tested positive, leading to the entire delegation having to isolate themselves. The delegation returned to India after testing negative and the External Affairs Minister attending meetings virtually. A shocking a fake video popped up on my phone a few times, suggesting that the Indian delegation did not follow quarantine norms and regulations. While the original report was from Sky TV, the sign of another channel on the top left corner of the video was intriguing.
A second viewing clearly showed that the original had been edited and accusations against the Indian delegation had been inserted into the video. One is flummoxed by such malevolence at a time when people across the globe, cutting across religious and community
lines are pitching in to bring this global pandemic under control.
While the situation remains extremely worrisome and the virus is moving inwards towards smaller cities, towns and villages in India, in my own neighbourhood, I can see signs of hope. Just a few weeks back, almost every second or third home in our area was affected with the virus. Now, as I write, for the last couple of days, there have been no new cases.
With oxygen shortages coming to the fore, various stakeholders acted fast to redress the situation. An Empowered Group has been set up to ensure the supply of oxygen across the country. The production of oxygen has gone up to meet the increase in demand. Indian Railways, amongst others, is playing a vital role in transporting oxygen across the country. Delivery of medical oxygen has almost doubled from 4800 MT on April 15 to 8900 MT on May 8. Challenges in transportation, equipment or production have been identified and remedial steps are underway.
International community has also come forward. Lord Tariq Ahmed, Minister at the UK FCDO elaborated recently that huge oxygen generators that can be used by upto 50 people at a time and another 1000 ventilators were amongst the latest UK medical supplies to India. Other countries have also come forward as have members of the Indian diaspora and groups and people in India. These have been reaching the intended destinations, providing relief. The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin set up a fund for assisting with supplies of equipment as well as with telemedicine to support exhausted medical professionals in India through virtual consultations with their Indian counterparts. Similar efforts were initiated by Physicians of Indian Origin in the US and perhaps elsewhere too. I have personally been contacted by diaspora in South Africa and Ghana to guide them in their desire to assist their brethren in India.
New Covid-19 facilities have been set up by government or private establishments and citizen groups, while others are coming up fast. Several temples, mosques and gurudwaras have opened their doors to treat patients with milder cases, many with oxygen support. Despite fasting during Ramadan, Muslim boys helped get dignity in death to some Hindu Covid victims in Bhopal by getting their last rites done.
Good news has come on another front though. The DCGI has granted permission for emergency use of anti-COVID-19 therapeutic application of a drug developed by Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences, a lab of Defence Research and Development Organisation, in collaboration with Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Hyderabad.
Use of the drug has been permitted as adjunct therapy in moderate to severe COVID-19 patients. Ahmedabad-based pharmaceutical company Zydus Cadila is also getting ready with its application for emergency use authorisation of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate
'ZyCoV-D' in India. It had earlier announced that its drug Virafin had received restricted emergency use approval from DCGI for the treatment of mild cases of Covid-19.
Though a long and very tough road lies ahead, with new vaccines, drugs, facilities, equipment, and international friends and citizens, India is fighting back. I have renewed hope in my country and my people!