News India Times – that’s all you need to know Cover Story News India Times May 7, 2021 5 Countries, companies, NGOs, individuals, galvanize to help India in Covid crisis On The Move I ndia’s surging coronavirus cases should have been a loud wake-up call. Sure, the enormous spike in cases this spring came as a surprise. Just months before, an earlier rise in daily cases had dropped mysteriously, and India, home to some of the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturers, seemed well primed for mass immunization. But that changed weeks ago, in mid-March, when cases ticked up but vaccinations did not. By April, daily cases had topped 100,000, higher than they had ever reached in 2020. Soon, they were more than triple that, setting a record for any nation on Earth and accounting for more than 39 percent of all new cases globally. India’s death toll is nearing 200,000, even with serious allegations of under- counting. The rapid rise of infections seems to have come from the perfect storm of fast-spreading variants, slow vaccination and relaxed restrictions that public health experts had warned about. And yet for what seemed like an agonizingly long time, it appeared that much of the world was sleeping on it. As countries like the United States began to see the positive results of mass vaccination programs, Indians took to social media to detail shortages of supplies needed to make vaccines and lifesaving supplies like oxygen. Alarming stories of a new, po- tentially more infectious virus strain called B. 1.617 flooded global headlines. Only last week did the world take serious action, with countries from Britain to the United Arab Emir- ates promising oxygen generators or ventilators. Even China, in the midst of a border dispute with India, offered to send vaccine doses to its neigh- bor, without offering clear specifics. Most closely watched was the United States. On Monday, Presi- dent Joe Biden told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the United States would provide “oxygen-re- lated supplies, vaccine materials and therapeutics” and said that the U.S. supply of Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine doses would be shared with other nations. Already, many are asking if this is too little, too late. In particular, there is anger that the United States did not move faster to help India just months after the country was identified as a key democratic ally in Asia. Even officials who are grateful for U.S. help have expressed shock at its pace. “What took us by surprise was the slow response by the U.S. It created some misgivings in the public opinion, and that sometimes creates complications,” an unnamed Indian official told theWall Street Journal, suggest- ing someone had “dropped the ball.” From the vantage ofWashington, many get the same sense. ThomasWright, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, tweeted on Monday that sharing AstraZeneca doses was the right call but that “the administration will receive a lot less credit for doing this now under massive pressure than a week ago.” The situation has renewed questions about U.S. vaccine policy, which has focused on domestic supply and largely neglected broader problems of global vaccine supply, apart from pledging up to $4 million for Covax, aWHO-backed vaccine distribu- tion effort. Critics, such as British lawmaker Claudia Webbe, have pointed out that the United States and other wealthy countries have not backed calls to waive intellectual property rights for coronavirus vaccines. Then there is the thorny, complicated issue of U.S. export controls. Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive of Indian vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute, has said that his own supply problems are due to the U.S. use of the Defense Production Act, which limits the exports of critical materials needed to make vaccine doses. U.S. officials have pushed back against some of the framing, denying in aWhite House briefing on Tuesday that invoking the Defense Production Act had restricted the export of U.S. materials. But they also refused to answer questions about intellectual property waivers and admitted that exports of an initial 10 million AstraZeneca doses could take “weeks” to reach countries in need. The United States was hardly the only one slow to act on India’s surge. While many Indians are angry at the pace of international support, others are direct- ing their anger at those closer to home. Modi and his Hindu-nationalist governing party have been criticized for lifting virus restrictions and allowing huge events, including political rallies and religious festivals. To many, it looks like Modi declared victory be- fore the battle was over. In a column for the Finan- cial Times, Gideon Rachman writes that India and Modi had fallen prey to “Covid hubris.”While that malady is not unique, Modi, Rachman writes, made some “distinctive and disastrous errors,” including a failure “to use the decline in infection after the first wave to prepare properly for a second wave.” Part of it was pride. India reveled in its status as one of the world’s major manufacturing centers for vaccines. But with few imports and much of By Adam Taylor U.S. Coronavirus Aid Arrives In India E mergency medical aid from the United States and other nations began arriving in India on Friday as the South Asian country’s crushing coronavirus outbreak continued to spiral and vaccinations in multiple regions ground to a halt because of dwindling supplies. A U.S. Air Force transport plane carrying oxygen cylinders, N95 masks and rapid diagnostic tests landed at the Indira Gan- dhi International Airport in Delhi Friday morning, the first of several shipments theWhite House pledged to help India combat the pandemic. “Just as India came to our aid early in the pandemic, the U.S. is committed to working urgently to provide assistance to India in its time of need,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter. India’s Health Ministry on Friday reported another record number of new cases, logging 386,452 infections over the previ- ous 24 hours. India has now registered more than 300,000 new cases every day for the past nine days, bringing its total number of infections to more than 18.7 million. There were 3,498 new fatalities reported, pushing India’s of- ficial death toll past 208,000, although medical experts say that number is probably a substantial undercount. Crematoriums and burial grounds are running out of space in the capital, New Delhi, according to local media reports. On Friday, just six intensive care beds were available for covid-19 patients, according to a government database. Authorities in the commercial capital, Mumbai, paused vac- cinations for three days because of dose shortages. India was scheduled to begin a mass immunization drive Saturday but several states have now said that the campaigns will be delayed. India is one of the world’s largest vaccine producers but has struggled to ramp up production as global demand for special- ized materials has soared. In Delhi, the chief minister said Friday that the national capi- tal territory had not yet received the doses it requested from both the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech to begin inocula- tions. In a briefing, he urged residents to stay home and away from vaccination centers. “Don’t queue up for vaccines tomorrow. As soon as vaccines arrive we will let you know, then you can come for shots,” Arvind Kejriwal said, India’s NDTV reported. “Many across the country have registered for vaccines but we have not received stocks. We are in regular touch with companies and we hope to get the vaccines in a day or two.” - TheWashington Post By Erin Cunningham - Continued On Page 6 Photo:USAIDTwitter REUTERS/AmitDave A woman with breathing problem waits inside an ambulance for her turn to enter a COVID-19 hospital for treatment, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ahmedabad, India, April 28, 2021. Medical supplies from the U.S. began arriving April 30, 2021.