Let us learn from India’s mistakes

Sunday May 02 2021
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Patients breath with the help of oxygen masks inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a Covid-19 coronavirus ward in New Delhi on April 27, 2021. More than ten countries have put travel restrictions on travellers from Covid- stricken India. PHOTO/AFP

By Editor

In January, India almost declared victory against the pandemic. The country, under the leadership of prime minister Narendra Modi, took a proactive public participation approach and developed a robust Covid-19 specific health infrastructure and trained its resources to fight the killer disease.

Millions of masks and PPE suits were produced and the number of ICU beds capacity improved, ventilators and care units increased. Public awareness messages were sent out, asking Indians to wear masks, washing or sanitising hands and social distancing and other non-pharmacological measures were enforced.

The people led the war against the killer, supported by a nationwide lockdown and the magic worked.
Awkwardly, a country that had strummed the right tone in the fight against the pandemic is reeling under the deadliest wave of a variant that takes no prisoners. It is killing the young as well as the old. It’s a crisis of unrivalled proportions. The country registered more than 300,000 new cases, the biggest-ever daily surge in the history of the pandemic. The death toll is rising, with reports of dead bodies piling up in mortuaries, crematoriums and burial grounds.

But what went wrong with Modi’s handling of the epidemic? The Indian government was unprepared for the second wave. The authorities looked on as the citizenry neglected masks, sanitisers and other measures. Unseeingly, the virus picked up as the government was busy chest-thumping on its great success in the war against the pandemic.

This is the same situation in Uganda. Kenya moved faster and banned flights from India to prevent importation of highly infectious variants of the coronavirus that is causing havoc. In Uganda, Ministry of Health officials acted after the country confirmed the deadly variant. Most Ugandans have shunned vaccination and no longer wear masks.  

The handwashing facilities in many public and private places lack water and soap. The taxis are crowded, and a mask is no longer compulsory for boarding. It’s business as usual. In arcades, as well as markets, the situation is worse. The bars are supposed to be locked, but somehow they are working behind closed doors.

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To avert the Indian nightmare, the government must as matter of urgency, boost vaccination through public awareness campaign, enforce Covid-19 SOPs, ban passenger flights from all high-risk countries that put us at higher risk of importing new variants. All visitors from high-risk countries must be quarantined for two weeks.

We only have 33 active cases in hospitals and the Ministry of Health statistics for April 30 showed that of the 2,619 only 69 were detected. With these numbers, President Museveni’s government has all the options and powers to prevent or delay the second wave that could have a very devastating effect on the economy which is already struggling.

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