Rich countries could prevent the next India. Will they?

By Kevin Clarke, 7 May 2021
A medical officer attend to residents at a COVID-19 testing drive during a nationwide lockdown in Mumbai, India in April 2020. Image: Manoej Paateel/


Each passing day the COVID-19 outbreak in India seems to produce a new horror, as images of overwhelmed hospitals, exhausted crematorium workers and fields of funeral pyres emerge from this latest pandemic hotspot. Just a few months ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had declared that India “beat all odds” against COVID-19. Now a new variant appears to have overwhelmed the nation’s health care system as confirmed cases and COVID-19 deaths reach unprecedented levels.

The speed and virulence of the outbreak have been among its most shocking aspects. Could an outbreak as ferocious happen somewhere else?

Sadly, “the next India could be in so many different places,” said Emily Doogue, a public health specialist for Catholic Relief Services who has been helping to map out the relief and development agency’s COVID-19 response. The same factors that led to the surge in India, Ms. Doogue said, are in play in other nations around the world.

With community transmission continuing across the globe, coronavirus variants are emerging that are proving “more transmissible and more serious; they’re less forgiving.”

Variants have been abetted by human behaviour, as governments and the public grow weary of social distancing, mask-wearing and other pandemic restrictions. Throw in “minimal vaccine coverage”—what Ms. Doogue calls “our one major tool to end this thing”—and you have the recipe for the next India-level catastrophe.

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Kevin Clarke is America’s chief correspondent and the author of Oscar Romero: Love Must Win Out (Liturgical Press).

With thanks to America Magazine and Kevin Clarke, where this article originally appeared.


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