India’s latest COVID-19 surge is spreading like wildfire after India loosened up its regulations on the original lockdown. Reports of new cases as well as deaths have increased, which will undoubtedly be a path the US will be heading down if we do not take heed of this warning.
At the height of COVID-19, India prepared for a deadly virus that could potentially affect billions of people in their country. In crowded areas like Mumbai, India had prepared for the worst, but the worst never came. In December of last year, India only had a tenth of the number of deaths than the United States.
While countries with sophisticated health care systems were suffering, places like India and sub-Saharan Africa had extremely low case rates. Many attributed India’s immunity to a nation already plagued with so many different viruses that it somehow built up resistance to whatever this new virus was.
“It led to the assumption that India had been cheaply, naturally vaccinated,” Dr. Prabhat Jha, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, told the New York Times.
So, where did it all go wrong?
With cases remaining low, Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided he would relax India’s restrictions. Political rallies and weddings could commence again, and thousands gathered at large festivals celebrating religious holidays.
“Every wedding, political rally, shopping center and restaurant was back to its pre-pandemic levels,” Dr. Rakesh Mishra, director of the CSIR Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology told the Wall Street Journal. “They were very, very crowded.”
Kumbh Mela was an example of a super spreader event. Millions flocked to the city of Haridwar to bathe in the Ganges river. There was no regard for social distancing and thousands of cases were confirmed after the celebration.
Religious gatherings are the matches that light the fires in virus cases, especially in third-world countries. Places like Guatemala who celebrate Semana Santa, holy week, flocked to its beaches and gathered, ignoring social distancing. People embraced and hugged one another as crowded streets filled the city.
“The cases are increasing because the people have relaxed,” said Ivonne Cuyun, business administrator of San Carlos University in Guatemala. “No one wears a mask, and everyone thinks nothing is going on.
Restrictions are being lifted in the United States, following Biden’s announcement that vaccinated people can go outdoors with no mask. In a country filled with anti-vaxer’s and anti-maskers, one can not help but think how effective this new policy will be. People in Florida have been gathering since September, acting like the virus was a thing of the past. No mask enforcement and no care for social distancing have kept Florida at a steady infected rate.
We are not in the clear yet and these restrictions need to remain in place until everyone has a chance to get vaccinated or the cases drop to a manageable number.
The damage done to those who still have people living in countries outside of the US is more upsetting. Yearly family visits are put on hold while family members pass away with no chance of seeing them or making that last embrace.
“I feel so isolated and sad that I cannot be with my family at this time,” Stephanie Seguin told the ‘Detroit Free Press.’ “We have not buried my dad, and his ashes remain at the funeral home [in Canada] until I can cross again. It’s heartbreaking.”
Concerts are coming back, bars are open again and the US seems to be breathing a sigh of relief, thinking the worst is behind them. But with all the warning signs going off around us, it is evident that if we continue down this path ignoring what could happen, we will be in the same sinking boat that India is in.
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