Lessons from India’s COVID-19 tsunami

Daily news of relatives and friends succumbing to the coronavirus, has many of us terribly worried about our loved ones in India right now.  With the second wave of the pandemic totally crippling the country’s fragile health system, hundreds of COVID-19 stricken families are simply left to fend for themselves.

Those with the financial means to afford medicine and oxygen supplies being sold at ten times the price in the black market have some hope of winning the battle with the coronavirus. The privileged  also have the option of setting up a home ICU given that  hospital beds are almost impossible to find.

But if you are one of the many Indians who aren’t loaded with cash, perhaps the only thing you can do is pray you don’t get COVID!

In the meanwhile the central and state governments continue to point fingers at one another with the sole focus on  protecting their political futures.

As the world looks on in horror at heart-wrenching images of people gasping for breath outside hospitals and overflowing crematoriums,   Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s apathy and ineptitude are totally exposed.  Even some pro-BJP media are turning on the Indian government during what is without doubt a grave humanitarian crisis. With the country’s leaders not having a clue of how to stop the devastation, the turnaround looks to be a slow and excruciating one.

In the meanwhile some concerned citizens have taken it upon themselves to assist patients and their families in finding the medical resources they need. And for once, social media is actually serving a good purpose.

A friend shared that she is up late into the night working her pharmaceutical network to find supplies of the antiviral drug remdesivir for people who have reached out. But she regrets that her connections don’t go far enough to help with oxygen cylinders and hospital beds as well.

A college alumni  WhatsApp group has also set up a helpline for medical supplies and hospital beds.  

Given the total collapse of the health system, some Indian doctors too are turning to social media to find oxygen and medicines for their critically-ill patients.

While countries across the world have stepped in to help,  some Indian medics feel it will do little to prevent the country from drowning in the COVID-19 tsunami that is largely its own creation. 

The easing up of restrictions and consequent large social events, crowded political rallies and religious gatherings created the perfect conditions for the devastating second wave. 

Of course the leaders refuse to take responsibility and political rallies continue despite being labelled super spreader events.

As Canada and Ontario struggle to contain the third wave of the pandemic, it’s not hard to understand how India got into this mess. 

Our provincial health system is also dangerously close to being engulfed by the pandemic.

After transferring hundreds of GTA patients to hospitals in other areas of the province, Ontario is now looking to move more of them to long-term care homes, with or without their consent to make space for COVID-19 patients. Meanwhile the armed forces have been called in to help with intensive care patients and six field hospitals stand ready to provide acute care.

We can learn from India’s mistakes. 

This is clearly not the time to lift lockdowns no matter how unpopular they may seem. It’s about saving lives and livelihoods not political futures. 

Australia and New Zealand weren’t afraid to do what was needed and are reaping the benefits of it.

This is not the time to ease travel restrictions either. According to a recent World Health Organization report the double mutant variant from India has reached 17 countries. 

It’s shocking that the Trudeau government dragged its feet on banning flights from India and other hot spots, saying it would not make a difference. Now Canadians are paying the price for their folly. 

By their own admission Indian travellers represent 50% of the cases testing positive on arrival in Canada.

We also know that the coronavirus and the variants of concern all got here on a plane. 

The slow vaccination rate in India is believed to be a reason for the deadly second wave, something we are also experiencing first hand.

But one must remember that India’s population density and unequal healthcare system make battling the virus a huge challenge. Here’s where the similarities stop.  And we’ve had two previous waves of the pandemics to get our act together.

Our federal and provincial leaders also need to stop filtering COVID-19 mitigation strategies through the electoral lens. 

To avoid following in India’s tracks, they must prioritize lives not votes!!!




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