India, which happens to be a big coronavirus vaccine exporter, now seeks imports for healthcare instruments and foreign vaccines as its number of daily COVID-19 cases has crossed the 300,000 mark.
The country recently identified a ‘triple-mutant’ strain in its richest state of Maharashtra, which accounts for about a quarter of the country’s cases.
India currently has the biggest global vaccine manufacturing capacity and even exported tens of millions of doses before its domestic demand peaked, leading to shortages in many of its states.
To make things even worse, a new strain of SARS-CoV-2 has surfaced, and hospitals across northern and western India, including New Delhi, are left with only a few hours of medical oxygen required to keep patients alive.
Initial sequences in the B.1.618 lineage were found in West Bengal, India.
— Vinod Scaria (@vinodscaria) April 20, 2021
Neha Gupta, an infectious disease specialist, has stated that the future of India’s healthcare system remains uncertain, for “COVID-19 may continue for long if the strains remain infectious, and hit us hard multiple times in the years to come, or it may disappear if the virus mutates to a very docile one similar to flu”.
While the authorities have informed the public to prepare for a nationwide vaccination drive, the unfortunate reality is that only a tiny fraction of the population will receive the shots.
To put things in perspective, the Modi government has announced that the vaccines will be available starting 1 May to those who are 18 years of age and above, but the country will not have enough shots for the population of 600 million people who are eligible.
For the time being, India intends to use lockdowns as a last resort.