An editorial in medical journal Lancet has blamed the central government for the ongoing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) crisis in the country, holding it responsible for “allowing superspreader” religious and political events and slowing down the vaccination campaign.
The editorial said that the government gave the impression that India had “beaten Covid-19” despite the sero-surveillance done by Indian Council of Medical Research showing that only 21% of the population was exposed to the viral infection.
“Despite warnings about the risks of superspreader events, the government allowed religious festivals to go ahead, drawing millions of people from around the country, along with huge political rallies—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 editorial said.
It added the government also ignored “several” warnings about the dangers of a second wave. “Before the second wave of cases began to mount in early March, Indian Minister of Health Harsh Vardhan declared that India was in the “endgame” of the epidemic. 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,” the editorial said.
Dr Lalit Kant, former head of epidemiology division at the ICMR, said he agreed with the editorial. “The government should take responsibility for the situation we are in.”
The editorial comes as India continued to report over 400,000 daily new cases of the viral infection for the fifth consecutive day. On Sunday, the total cases reached 22,289,452, with 403,196 new cases. The death toll has reached 242,273.
Dr SK Sarin, director of Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences and head of the Delhi’s first committee on control and management of Covid, said, “I agree that the vaccination drive needs to be sped up; vaccine hesitancy is no longer there but we need to ensure availability of the vaccines.”
Mounting an attack on the government, Congress leader Ajay Maken said: “The Lancet says very clearly that this isn’t a natural disaster but a man-made one. The government should own up to its mistakes.”