/ 27 April 2021

COVID cases continue to soar in India

Countries are racing to send supplies to India as it battles a record-breaking coronavirus wave that has overwhelmed its health system. The UK has begun sending ventilators and oxygen concentrator devices, and the US will send raw materials for COVID-19 vaccines, medical equipment and protective gear. The first load of supplies is due to arrive in India early this morning. Health Minister Greg Hunt said the states would be asked what supplies and equipment they can spare. As for the risk to Australia, the growing crisis will be discussed at today’s National Security Committee meeting (aka select Federal Cabinet ministers, defence and intelligence bosses), including whether extra steps need to be taken to stop the spread to our shores. Last week, the National Cabinet (aka federal and state leaders) decided there would be a 30% reduction in flights from India after a spike in cases in returned travellers.

Last year, India enforced one of the world’s strictest national lockdowns. That saw it avoid the climbing tolls that other big nations saw (ahem America…), but experts say that caution was thrown to the wind in many areas. Yesterday, the country of 1.4 billion people recorded the highest number of daily cases for a 5th day straight, reporting almost 353,000 new infections and 2,800 deaths in 24 hours. The situation is particularly dire in the capital New Delhi, which is under lockdown until 3 May. PM Narendra Modi has been criticised for the failure to prepare for the wave of infections, instead encouraging large political and religious gatherings earlier in the year just as cases dropped below 10,000 a day. On Sunday, he urged all citizens to be vaccinated and exercise caution, saying the “storm” of infections had shaken the country.

Well, Japan’s 3rd state of emergency has been declared. And yes, it’s just under 3 months until the Tokyo Olympics… PM Yoshihide Suga made the announcement on Friday, and Japan recorded more than 5,500 new cases on Saturday, the highest in more than 3 months. Suga said new restrictions would be “stricter” than before and will remain in place until at least 11 May. The Games were postponed last year due to the pandemic, causing the costs to balloon. Despite the surge, organisers have previously said the Games will go on. Good luck with that… And while we’re here, the long-running quarrel between the European Union and AstraZeneca has escalated. Overnight the EU said it is suing the COVID vaccine manufacturer for not respecting its supply contract and not having a “reliable” plan to ensure timely deliveries. AstraZeneca said the move was “without merit”. Yikes…

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