Lancet extremely critical of Modi Government’s handling of Corona
The Lancet directly accused Narendra Modi led Government saying the impression it was giving was that it was more occupied by “removing criticism on Twitter than trying to control the pandemic”
The editorial lambasted the Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan by name on his comment that India was in the ‘endgame’ of the Corona spread in early March
Medical Journal The Lancet, which is as revered by the medical professionals and health scientists as ‘Bible’, has come down heavily on the present Central Government in India and its ministers including the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The journal which usually does not comment on politics was highly critical of those who were supposed to take care of the health infrastructure in the country. The Lancet did not mince words and directly accused Narendra Modi led Central Government saying the impression it was giving was that the Government was more occupied by “removing criticism on Twitter than trying to control the pandemic”.
The editorial lambasted the Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan by name on his comment that India was in the ‘endgame’ of the Corona spread in early March, refuting experts who were predicting a second very strong wave in the Pandemic.
The Lancet also suggested a two-pronged strategy to control the outbreak in the coming days. And the expectation is that the Central Government which has an inane disregard to experts and their suggestions would not listen to them.
“The impression from the government was that India had beaten COVID-19 after several months of low case counts, despite repeated warnings of the dangers of a second wave and the emergence of new strains. Modelling suggested falsely that India had reached herd immunity, encouraging complacency and insufficient preparation, but a serosurvey by the Indian Council of Medical Research in January suggested that only 21% of the population had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2,” the editorial says.
The journal was also quite caustic of the government’s decision – despite warnings – to allow religious congregations like the Kumbh which had the potential to be super-spreaders. Ultimately, the Kumbh saw around 91 lakh Hindus taking a customary dip in the Ganges and is one of the highest contributors to the country’s second wave as per experts. These Hindu-appeasement actions do not seem to have gone down well with those who manage the journal. It says that this event and the Political rallies are “conspicuous for their lack of COVID-19 mitigation measures.”
“The message that COVID-19 was essentially over also slowed the start of India’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, which has vaccinated less than 2% of the population. At the federal level, India’s vaccination plan soon fell apart. The government abruptly shifted course without discussing the change in policy with states, expanding vaccination to everyone older than 18 years, draining supplies, and creating mass confusion and a market for vaccine doses in which states and hospital systems competed,” The Lancet said.
The journal went on to say that the country’s “botched” vaccination campaign must immediately be rationalised and implemented with all due speed. It saw two immediate bottlenecks: increasing vaccine supply (some of which should come from abroad) and setting up a distribution campaign that will also cover rural and poorer citizens, who “face a desperate scarcity of public health and primary care facilities”. “The government must work with local and primary health-care centres that know their communities and create an equitable distribution system for the vaccine,” it suggested.
Transmission of the virus should also be reduced as much as possible while the vaccine is rolled out, The Lancet said, asking the government to publish “accurate data in a timely manner”, and forthrightly explain to the public what is happening and what is needed to bend the epidemic curve.
The editorial also suggested that the government must also consider the possibility of a new federal lockdown.
“Genome sequencing needs to be expanded to better track, understand, and control emerging and more transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants. Local governments have begun taking disease-containment measures, but the federal government has an essential role in explaining to the public the necessity of masking, social distancing, halting mass gatherings, voluntary quarantine, and testing. Modi’s actions in attempting to stifle criticism and open discussion during the crisis are inexcusable,” it said.
It doesn’t stop there and citing estimates by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, The Lancet said India could see 1 million deaths from COVID-19 by August 1. “If that outcome were to happen, Modi’s Government would be responsible for presiding over a self-inflicted national catastrophe." India squandered its early successes in controlling COVID-19.
Until April, the government’s COVID-19 taskforce had not met in months. The consequences of that decision are clear before us, and India must now restructure its response while the crisis rages,” it added.
In conclusion it said that the success of this restructured response will depend on the government “owning up to its mistakes, providing responsible leadership and transparency, and implementing a public health response that has science at its heart.”