India’s problem is the world’s problem
The harrowing scenes in India of hospitals full to the brim, people struggling to secure oxygen and the pressures on crematoriums were very hard to acknowledge. We stand side by side with India to defeat this virus.
As I mentioned in Parliament this week, India’s giant second wave is a disaster, not just for India, but for the whole world. It is a reminder to us all that this global pandemic is relentless and knows no bounds.
To see the world’s largest vaccine producer struggle has been deeply distressing to watch. The harrowing scenes of hospitals full to the brim, people struggling to secure oxygen and the pressures on crematoriums were very hard to acknowledge.
Last week numbers rose to over 350,000 reported daily Covid-19 cases a day – the highest recorded daily rate in the world. The deadly second wave which caught India off guard has been a truly unprecedented outbreak, in a truly extraordinary country given its vast population, geographical area and complexities.
An immediate consequence of India’s second wave for the rest of the world is a disruption to vaccine supply
India’s crowded cities and patched health care system make it a difficult country to help curb this infectious disease. With a population of over 1.4 billion, it is a mounting challenge for any healthcare system in the world to deal with the Covid-19 cases that India is currently experiencing. But despite these constraints, it should not be forgotten that India did remarkably well in addressing and slowing the first wave of the disease.
However, this is a timely opportunity for us all to remember just how much India has done for the world in our battle against this pandemic. India has been the world’s pharmacy and has provided 60% of the world’s vaccines, exporting them to over 100 countries including to us here the UK. This was at a time when India was also providing us with PPE and even paracetamols during our severe first wave last year.
It was therefore no surprise that calls to reciprocate this goodwill was echoed from all political sides, in an attempt to reinforce our invaluable partnership that the UK and India have demonstrated over the last year in tackling this global pandemic together.
I therefore welcome the UK government’s immediate response to send lifesaving medical equipment to India to support the country in its fight against Covid-19. The UK has already sent over 600 oxygen concentrators and ventilators to India, with the first shipment having arrived already, providing vital medical equipment to prevent the tragic loss of life from this virus. As Prime Minister Boris Johnson mentioned, we stand side by side with our Indian friends in the global battle to defeat this virus.
But the recent outbreak is not just India’s problem. An immediate consequence of India’s second wave for the rest of the world is a disruption to vaccine supply. 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 which is now constrained by India’s domestic obligations.
Meanwhile, coronavirus is mutating. Reports of double and even triple mutant strains of the virus have raised concerns that what has started in India, won’t end there. The variant has already been identified in 10 countries, including USA and Britain. Another reminder that no one is safe, until everyone is safe.
India’s close links to Britain has been a stark reminder that this awful virus does not respect borders. With emerging vaccines and further delays to vaccine supplies, it is a reminder that India’s problem is the world’s problem.
Lord Popat is a Conservative member of the House of Lords and founder of the Conservative Friends of India.