India's Covid catastrophe: causes and consequences

India is now the epicentre of the pandemic. Beds, medicine and above all oxygen are lacking in its hospitals and people are dying at the clinics, at home and on the street. More than 40 countries have pledged aid. In the midst of this chaos, elections were held in several states. Observers make serious accusations against the government and warn that everyone must pitch in to help.

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Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Fatal mass events

Corriere della Sera outlines the probable path to disaster:

“The long election campaign that began at the end of February and ended a few days ago is seen by experts as one of the reasons why India went from the illusion of having achieved herd immunity between January and February to today's catastrophic situation. ... On April 6, for example, 800,000 people gathered to listen to a speech by Prime Minister Modi in West Bengal, and only a few of them wore masks. Major sporting and religious events also had a dreadful impact - the cricket match between India and England in Gujarat with more than 130,000 fans, and the ritual bathing in the Ganges for the festival of Kumbh Mela, which was supposed to last from January 14 to April 27 but was stopped ten days early because of the pandemic.”

The Times (GB) /

Callous strategy: the poor left to fend for themselves

The Indian prime minister's Hindu nationalism results in inhumane policies, The Times concludes:

“Narendra Modi's lack of concern about the spread of Covid-19 is linked to the perceived racial superiority of high-caste Indians who will survive the crisis relatively unscathed, while the poor and low caste are left to fend for themselves with little or no help or medical assistance. ... They are seen as contributing neither to the economic nor the spiritual future of the nation, and as such are dispensable. It may be that their drag on the nation is such that it were better if they were dispensed with.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Helping for good reason

The tragic figures from India should worry us all, warns Corriere del Ticino:

“If we continue to watch them with the detached compassion we reserve for dramas that don't concern us, it will be proof that we have not understood much of what we have experienced in the last fifteen months. In the long run, the Indian numbers also threaten to affect the numbers in the West. So it's no coincidence that the West, perhaps for the first time since this universal catastrophe began, is showing solidarity and offering its help to India.”

Le Temps (CH) /

A segregated planet

The Covid crisis continues to aggravate global inequality, Le Temps warns:

“If emerging countries like India and Brazil are so helpless, what will become of even more fragile states? ... Some figures show that a collapse of health systems, economic crises and social unrest are key factors behind new migration flows. ... In the long term, the psychological threat posed by an increasing division of the world must not be underestimated. We who live sheltered within our bubble of developed countries and have a corresponding world view are in danger of losing sight of the common challenges. After all, who, on a planet segregated by the virus, will still feel the need to tackle the key challenge facing us together, namely climate change?”

Polityka (PL) /

Global orders, global consequences

The high infection rates in India will be a setback for the international vaccination campaign, Polityka fears:

“Soon, residents of other countries will start to feel the effects of the pandemic outbreak on the Ganges. Indian factories are expected to supply most of the vaccine doses distributed under the international Covax programme. However, it's already clear that many of these deliveries will be delayed. First, the Indians have to put out the fire in their own house.”

Les Echos (FR) /

World pharmacy has squandered its trump card

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not cutting a good figure here, Les Echos notes:

“India is the world's largest producer of vaccines. The Serum Institute of India alone can produce 1.5 billion doses a year, yet only one percent of the population has been vaccinated. The 'world pharmacy' has failed to play its trump card. Even Narendra Modi's supporters can't understand why he allowed such a comprehensive relaxation of rules after the first wave. Not only did he not prevent or even curb pilgrimages and party meetings, he even helped initiate them, creating gatherings of millions of people. He is being criticised in his own country, but he is also mistrusted abroad. Because when India suffers, the rest of the world suffers too.”