India considered itself to be “in the endgame” of the pandemic just a few weeks ago. Now it is the global epicenter. The country recently surpassed the devastating milestone of more than 345,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day, the biggest total recorded globally since the pandemic began.
What is taking place in India isn’t so much a wave as it is a wall: Charts showing the country’s infection rate and death toll, which has also reached record numbers in the country, depict curves that have shot up into vertical lines. Public-health experts aren’t optimistic that they will slope down anytime soon.
India’s outbreak is an enormous tragedy for its own people, but it’s also a catastrophe for the rest of the world. Ninety-two developing nations rely on India, home to the Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine maker, for the doses to protect their own populations, a supply now constrained by India’s domestic obligations. Meanwhile, the coronavirus is mutating. Reports of double- and even triple-mutant strains of the virus, which experts fear could be driving the country’s latest surge, have prompted concerns that what has started in India won’t end there. Despite efforts to restrict the spread of India’s new COVID-19 variant, called B.1.617, it has already been identified in at least 10 countries, including the United States and Britain.
If ever there were a time for intervention, it would be now. But world leaders, who have so far only paid lip service to the need for global cooperation, have mostly been preoccupied by their own internal situations. Although this approach may have served vaccine-rich countries such as the U.S. so far, India could prove its limits. [Continue reading…]