Covid Weekly Roundup: India’s Devastating Week

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It’s been a tragic week for India, which continues to grapple with the world’s biggest outbreak of Covid-19. This week the country’s official death toll passed 200,000, though experts warn that this is likely a massive undercount. One of the reasons for the sudden influx of cases could be a new, potentially more contagious variant, B.1.617., that’s circulating the country.  

Not only is India experiencing a surge in cases, but hospitals have been faced with a lack of crucial medical supplies including medications and oxygen. In the case of medical oxygen it’s not that the supply is down, says one manufacturing company, but that there’s not the right infrastructure to get the oxygen where it needs to go. “Nobody expected the requirement for oxygen to move such large distances,” Siddharth Jain told Forbes reporters Katie Jennings and Aayushi Pratap this week. 

On social media, public health experts begged the U.S. to intervene by sending supplies and vaccines to India. While India has been producing millions of the worlds’ vaccines, it’s own vaccine registration portal crashed this week when it opened to all adults. Scientists and advocates pointed out that America is sitting on millions of doses of unused AstraZeneca vaccines that could be used to help blunt India’s outbreak. Their pleas were heard: the U.S., and other countries, agreed to send international aid in the form of ventilators and oxygen, though the supplies haven’t reached India yet. 

Drug companies are also doing what they can to help the tragic situation. Gilead Sciences announced it is donating 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 people from the companies won’t be able to deliver medications themselves, since President Biden plans to restrict travel between the U.S. and India starting May 4th. 

Meanwhile, many Indians have taken to social media to discuss the Covid-19 outbreak and ask for medical help — but local governments aren’t pleased. State authorities were cracking down on locals using social media to air their Covid grievances and request aid, but India’s Supreme Court ruled that citizens have a right to discuss their frustrations.

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