The UN is at the forefront of efforts to help India extricate itself from the almost unimaginable scale of suffering its citizens are undergoing, as a result of a devastating wave of COVID-19 infections. Earlier this week, UN News spoke to the country chiefs based in India, for the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund, to get their take on the crisis. Here are some key excerpts from the interviews.
‘We gave the virus a chance’
Dr. Roderico H. Ofrin, WHO representative to India: It is important to remember that, by early February of this year, the economy and social activities reopened. We also saw that people were not behaving in a way that was appropriate to slowing COVID-19, and I think that’s why we are where we are. There are many reasons, but basically, we gave the virus a chance to keep transmitting.
Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF representative to India: In 2020 we were working closely with the Indian Government on spreading health messaging and preventing infections. Life began getting back to normal this year, and this is when the second wave hit.
An overwhelming wave
Dr. Ofrin: The way the virus has spread is similar to what we’ve seen in Europe or the US, but the scale is very different. The density of the population is probably also a factor, and we’ve seen that the spikes are acute in metropolitan areas. In the weeks when the cases were rising, the system was able to absorb patients, and extra beds were also being made available last year. So, it’s a scale issue: the scale of the surge and the scale of the response.
This virus is adapting so fast, that no model has been able to predict how it will spread. We have to be ahead of the game: it’s a cycle of preparedness, readiness, response and recovery. You can’t stop.