India shows no one safe till all are safe

Editorial | Mary Ma 27 Apr 2021

Hopes that life will return to normal soon appear to be fading in light of the hellish Covid situation in India where both the daily counts of new cases and deaths set a new record on Monday.

Global assistance is unlikely to pull the world's second most populous country out of the worsening crisis any time soon.

Philanthropist Bill Gates' not-so-optimistic prediction that the pandemic would be over by the end of 2022 now seems overly optimistic.

India has drawn the world's attention due to its record tallies and geopolitical location.

But the pandemic situation in South America is by no means better.

As British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab noted in despatching oxygen concentrators and ventillators to the largest member of the Commonwealth community, no one is safe until we are all safe.

Countries and territories that have claimed early success in controlling local outbreaks through strict social distancing measures and vaccine rollouts could fall victim again if outbreaks elsewhere continue to escalate with a vengeance.

The fear cannot be truer than in the context of India. Sitting between the east and west with a population size second only to China, the pandemic there could threaten other parts of the world unless it is brought under control.

Regrettably, the pandemic has been far too political from the very beginning.

First, there were those PPE (personal protective equipment) diplomatic maneuvers; then came the vaccine diplomacy played up by Beijing and Brussels.

Of late, exports of raw materials essential for the manufacturing of vaccines were held up by the US.

No less problematic is the scarce amount of vaccines making their way to poor countries via the World Health Organization's COVAX program.

If there is a silver lining to be found in India's crisis, hopefully it will be a world awakening to the reality that nobody is actually safe in a pandemic unless everyone is safe - if international borders are expected to reopen the way they had been. I suspect that even if borders stay closed, the disease will continue to penetrate the boundaries.

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi first cried out for help, the world mostly monitored the situation but took no action. This failed to surprise anyone since this has always been the norm.

As head of the Commonwealth, Britain was obliged to take the lead. It should have acted earlier, but better late than never.

As soon as a special flight took off to fly oxygen devices to India, the United States said it was lifting the export ban on raw materials vital for making the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Others began falling in line, with India's regional rivals China and Pakistan also extending olive branches.

It's ironic given that India is the world's largest vaccine making country, producing most of the AstraZeneca jabs that have helped suppress fatalities to a negligible level in the UK.

Assistance is on the way to India, but it remains to be seen how soon this outside aid can help stabilize the situation.

Meanwhile, it is important that the world remembers the situation facing South Americans too.



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