THE DISCLOSURE on Tuesday that India’s covid19 death toll is likely to exceed four million – ten times the country’s official toll – is a catastrophic illustration of the threat still posed by this virus, as well as the vulnerabilities of populations which are not able to swiftly inoculate themselves.
A paper released on Tuesday by the US-based Center for Global Development put India’s excess mortality rate at between 3.4 million and 4.9 million as at June 21.
It had always been suspected that official Indian figures were under-reported, but the scale of these findings should trigger alarm internationally with regard to the slow pace of vaccination efforts and the marked global inequalities in terms of vaccine supply.
Also on Tuesday, the UK suffered its worst death toll since March, with 96 deaths, with other numbers rising ominously. New infections in France increased by 150 per cent owing to the delta variant.
It is all too apparent the virus is closing in. The longer it takes for populations to become fully vaccinated, the more likely the development of further variants and, worse, mutations.
This is the tragic backdrop against which calls for mandatory vaccinations must be understood.
When it comes to this week’s rekindling of the food sector, the Government’s changed strategy of giving a longer period of notice with regard to reopening clearly paid off on Monday, even if this meant sales were unsavoury for some vendors. There was clearly no mad rush, though social-distancing issues still remained to an extent.
In addition, there was a programme of vaccinations for workers in the sector before it reopened.
The Government should also be complimented for massively increasing the State’s mass vaccination sites.
“We are making it easy for you to access the vaccine,” Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said on Monday as he took stock of the current situation.
In addition to 109 health centres, he said, there are about a dozen mass vaccination sites, as well as two drive-throughs – one administered, from Wednesday, by the State, another by a private company (a third site, a pilot project, has come to an end.)
Allowing members of the public, of all ages, to walk in or drive through was always the most feasible way of achieving the numbers needed to quickly inoculate the population.
But while strides are being made and uptake, for the moment, appears robust, there will need to be a sustained drive to keep demand high. Far too many people underestimate the threat of the virus, or imagine nonexistent risks of taking the vaccines.
Further down the road, questions loom over the supply of further vaccines, given that the goal for this country must be to cover close to a million people. For now, uncertainties over donations from the US and the arrangements with respect to the Africa Medical Supply Platform mean that, sadly, we should all remain massively concerned.