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Covid 19 coronavirus: Why India’s Covid crisis poses a threat to the whole world

Despite India’s insistence, just weeks ago, that it was “in the endgame” of its battle against Covid-19, experts have warned for months that the nation of 1.4 billion people was a growing threat to the global fight against the virus.

And now those fears have been realised – with a “tsunami” of coronavirus cases, escalating deaths and dwindling medical supplies –as experts warn the devastation could have a knock-on effect for the rest of the world.

After on Sunday recording the worst single-day increase in cases in any country since the pandemic began, with 352,991 new infections, India reported another 323,000 cases and 2771 deaths, with no signs of slowing down.

“All the arrows are pointing to real darkness,” University of Michigan epidemiologist and biostatician, Bhramer Mukherjee, told the Atlantic.

As the world’s largest vaccine producer, India’s Serum Institute provides 92 developing nations the doses needed to protect their own populations – a supply that has now been constrained by India’s domestic obligations.

The institute, which manufactures the AstraZeneca vaccine, has already said it will not be able to meet its international commitments amid India’s domestic shortage, with the country forced to import doses.

On top of that, Covid-19 is continuing to mutate – experts fear that double and possibly triple-mutant strains could be driving India’s latest surge, prompting concerns the same situation will soon spread further afield.

Efforts to restrict the spread of the B. 1.617 variant, which originated in India, haven’t been enough to prevent its detection in at least 10 other countries, including Britain and America.

Speaking to Business Insider, Mukherjee said India’s “premature celebration of victory” should serve as a warning to other countries who are seeing case numbers decline.

“The double mutant is now in California, it is in the UK, and similar variants are going to circulate all over the world,” she said.

“It’s really a global problem.”

Local media outlets are reporting long lines at hospitals, ventilator and oxygen shortages and bodies piling up at crematoriums – a situation that might not have been as bad, experts said, if the country had been quicker on its local vaccine distribution and hadn’t loosened social distancing restrictions.

“Many people were thinking by December, January, ‘Oh, we’ve got this under control’,” University of Toronto epidemiologist Prabhat Jha told the publication.

“That turned out to be just hubris and I, among others, had warned that it could really bite back.

“The real lesson here is: respect the virus, respect science. There’s no other way out.”

Hospitals in Delhi sought help from the city’s high court last week, asking it to order state and federal governments to make emergency arrangements for medical supplies, mainly oxygen.

In response, the court asked officials: “It’s a tsunami. How are we trying to build capacity?”

New Zealand’s ban on travel from India lifts at midnight tonight but new travel rules then come into force that mean only New Zealand citizens and their parents, partners and children will be able to come home from four high-risk countries – India, Brazil, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea.

Permanent New Zealand residents will not be able to travel directly here from those nations.

But Assistant Professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, Krutika Kuppalli, warned that “if India doesn’t get their pandemic under control, it affects the whole world”.

“We can put all the travel restrictions we want, but that’s not going to prevent these mutations from getting to other places.”

– Additional reporting, NZ Herald

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