India could see 1 million deaths due to Covid by August: Lancet
New Delhi, May 08: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government seemed more intent on removing criticism on Twitter than trying to control the Covid-19 pandemic, said a hard-hitting editorial in the British medical journal Lancet.
"Modi's actions in attempting to stifle criticism and open discussion during the crisis are inexcusable," Lancet said.
'Government gave impression that India had beaten Covid-19'
"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 editorial read.
"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," it noted.
"The government abruptly shifted course without discussing the change in policy with states, expanding vaccination to everyone older than 18 years, draining supplies, and creating mass confusion and a market for vaccine doses in which states and hospital systems competed," it said.
India could see a staggering 1 million deaths from Covid-19 by August 1, the journal said. If that outcome were to happen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government would be responsible for presiding over a self-inflicted national catastrophe.
Raising concern over the present situation, Lancet, in its editorial, has suggested that India should adopt a two-pronged strategy. It said that the "botched vaccination" campaign must be rationalised and implemented speedily. For this, it should increase the vaccine supply and set up a distribution campaign that can cover not just urban but also rural and poorer citizens.
Secondly, India needs to control transmission of the virus, publish accurate data in a timely manner and explain to the public what is happening and what is needed to bend the epidemic curve, including the possibility of a new federal lockdown. "Modi's actions in attempting to stifle criticism and open discussion during the crisis are inexcusable," Lancet said.
Genome sequencing too needs to be expanded to better track, understand, and control emerging and more transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants, it said.