It has been a tragic week for India, which continues to grapple with the world’s largest outbreak of Covid-19. This week the country’s official death toll rose from 200,000, although experts warn that this is probably a massive insufficient count. One of the reasons for the sudden influx of cases could be a new, potentially more contagious variant, B. 1.617. which is circulating in the country.
Not only is India experiencing an increase in cases, but hospitals have faced a lack of crucial medical supplies, including medicines and oxygen. In the case of medical oxygen, it’s not that the supply has dropped, says one manufacturing company, but that there is not the right infrastructure to get oxygen where it needs to go. “Nobody expected the oxygen requirement to move at such great distances,” Siddharth Jain told Forbes reporters Katie Jennings and Aayushi Pratap this week.
On social media, public health experts pleaded with the United States to intervene by sending supplies and vaccines to India. While India has been producing millions of vaccines around the world, its own vaccine registration portal crashed this week when it was opened to all adults. Scientists and advocates noted that the United States is sitting on millions of doses of unused AstraZeneca vaccines that could be used to help stem the Indian outbreak. Their pleas were heard: the United States, and other countries, agreed to send international aid in the form of ventilators and oxygen, although supplies have not yet reached India.
Pharmaceutical companies are also doing what they can to help the tragic situation. Gilead Sciences announced that it will donate 450,000 doses of remdesivir to India, and other companies are working to get monoclonal antibody therapies quickly approved by the country’s regulators. But the people in the companies will not be able to deliver medicines on their own, as President Biden plans to restrict travel between the United States and India starting May 4.
Meanwhile, many Indians have turned to social media to discuss the covid-19 outbreak and ask for medical help, but local governments are unhappy. State authorities were cracking down on locals who use social media to voice their Covid complaints and solicit help, but India’s Supreme Court ruled that citizens have the right to discuss their frustrations.