COVID-19 crisis: India reopened ‘prematurely’, says top US medical adviser

COVID-19 crisis
Image credits: White House/Flickr

India is in such “dire straits” because it made the “incorrect assumption” that they were done with the coronavirus and reopened “prematurely”, Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases and chief medical adviser to the US president, has said.

The deadly second wave of COVID-19 has hit India hard with several hospitals across the country facing shortage of oxygen, health workers, vaccines, drugs and beds.

“The reason that India is in such dire straits now is that they had an original surge and made the incorrect assumption that they were finished with it, and what happened, they opened up prematurely and wind up having a surge right now that we’re all very well aware of is extremely devastating,” Dr Fauci told Senate Health, Education, Labour and Pensions Committee during a hearing on the COVID-19 Response.

Lessons learned

Senator Patty Murray, who chaired the hearing, said that the situation in India is a reminder that the US can’t end pandemic here until it ends it everywhere.

“I’m glad the Biden administration is leading that global fight by rejoining the World Health Organization and funding global vaccine efforts and committing to donate 60 million AstraZeneca vaccines to other countries by July 4,” she said.

Covid-19 crisis
A patient, wearing an oxygen mask, sits outside LNJP hospital in Delhi (Image: Flickr)

“India’s outbreak really underscores the need for a robust public health infrastructure in the US to respond appropriately to this pandemic and future outbreaks, as well,” Senator Murray said as she asked Fauci what can the US learn from India’s outbreak.
“One of the important things is don’t ever underestimate the situation,” Fauci said as he referred to India’s “incorrect assumption” and “premature opening up”.

“The second thing is preparedness with regard to public health, preparedness, which we, as a lesson learned for future pandemics, have to realise that we need to continue to build up our local public health infrastructure, which over the last decades we have let actually in many respects go into disarray, likely because of our successes in controlling so many diseases,” Fauci said.

Global response

The other lesson that’s learned is that this is a global pandemic that requires a global response, and one has to pay attention to the “responsibility that we have, not only for our own country, but to join with other countries to make sure that we have the access to interventions, particularly vaccines throughout the world,” he said.

“Because if it continues to have dynamics of virus anywhere in the world, we have a threat here in the United States, particularly with variants, and you know there’s one variant in India that is also a new variant…So those are just a few of the lessons that I believe we can take from what’s going on in India,” Dr Fauci said.

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