Amid Second Virus Wave, the World Responds to India’s Distress Call

Countries, companies and powerful members of the diaspora have all pledged to pitch in, but it likely won’t be enough to stop the unfolding catastrophe.



By Emily Schmall and Karan Deep Singh

NEW DELHI — Oxygen generators from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Raw material for coronavirus vaccines from the United States. Millions in cash from companies led by Indian-American businessmen.

As a second wave of the pandemic rages in India, the world is coming to the rescue.

But it is unlikely to plug enough holes in India’s sinking health care system to fully stop the deadly crisis that is underway, and the health emergency has global implications for new infections worldwide, as well as for countries relying on India for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“It’s a desperate situation out there,” said Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan, the founder and director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, adding that donations will be welcome, but may only make a “limited dent on the problem.”

In the early months of 2021, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi acted as if the coronavirus battle had been won, holding huge campaign rallies and permitting thousands to gather for a Hindu religious festival.

Now, Mr. Modi is striking a far more sober tone. He said in a nationwide radio address on Sunday that India has been “shaken” by a “storm.”

Patients are suffocating in the capital, New Delhi, and other cities because hospitals’ oxygen supplies have run out. Frantic relatives have appealed on social media for leads on intensive-care unit beds and experimental drugs. Funeral pyres have spilled over into parking lots and city parks.

Now, Mr. Modi appears to be looking to the rest of the world to help India quell its seemingly unstoppable coronavirus wave.

A global coronavirus surge, largely driven by the devastation in India, continues to break daily records and run rampant in much of the world, even as vaccinations steadily ramp up in wealthy countries. More than one billion shots have now been given globally.

On Sunday, the world’s seven-day average of new cases hit 774,404, according to a New York Times database, higher than the peak average during the last global surge, in January. Despite the number of shots given around the world, far too few of the global population of nearly eight billion have been vaccinated to slow the virus’s steady spread.

Vaccinations have been highly concentrated in wealthy nations: 82 percent of shots worldwide have been given in high- and upper-middle-income countries, according to data compiled by the Our World in Data project. Only 0.2 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries.

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