India’s virus cases soar past 5 million; EU warns against ‘vaccine nationalism’

Updated 17 Sep 2020


Mumbai: People wait in line to board a bus amidst a  spread of the coronavirus disease.—Reuters
Mumbai: People wait in line to board a bus amidst a spread of the coronavirus disease.—Reuters

NEW DELHI: Coronavirus infections in India soared past five million on Wednesday, as the EU’s chief warned against “vaccine nationalism” in the frantic global race to battle the disease.

Worldwide cases are rapidly approaching 30 million, with more than 936,000 known Covid-19 deaths since the virus emerged in China late last year. The global economy has been devastated and nations are struggling to contain new outbreaks.

India, home to 1.3 billion people, has reported some of the highest daily case jumps in the world recently.

And as Israel braced for a second lockdown from Friday, the resurgence of the virus there meant that Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue will close for the first time over the Jewish New Year.

Ukraine and Belarus meanwhile engaged in a war of words over some 2,000 Jewish pilgrims trapped on their border, refused entry by Kiev over coronavirus restrictions set to remain for foreigners until late September.

“We are ready for any conditions and instructions on the coronavirus. Just let us in!” read a handwritten sign carried by one of the faithful in the video.

The spread of the virus has accelerated in some of the most populous parts of the world such as India, where the latest million infections were detected over just 11 days.

And some experts have warned that the total number of cases could be far higher in the vast nation, which has been easing one of the world’s strictest lockdowns to help its reeling economy.

“People have lost their fear or are too tired (of) being cautious. They want to be out and earn a living right now,” Jayant Surana, a New Delhi-based entrepreneur, said.

With scientists rushing to find an effective vaccination, nine candidates are in late-stage human trials — the final stage of clinical testing, according to the WHO.

But the United States has led wealthier nations already buying up millions of doses of promising models, prompting the WHO to call for the equitable distribution of doses to ensure poorer countries have access.

In an implicit swipe at US President Donald Trump’s approach, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said Europe would lead the world in the search for a vaccine and support multilateral bodies like the WHO.

“None of us will be safe until all of us are safe — wherever we live, whatever we have,” she said. “Vaccine nationalism puts lives at risk. Vaccine cooperation saves them.”

WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan, addressing European nations, warned it was time to “stop looking for unicorns” and take hard decisions to protect the most vulnerable with a potentially deadly winter approaching.

Many European countries that had started to ease their restrictions after bringing outbreaks under control, face worrying spikes in infections again.

In Spain, the Madrid region’s deputy health chief Antonio Zapatero said they were considering restricting the size of gatherings and people’s movements.

Denmark has announced new restrictions, including shorter hours for bars and restaurants, new face mask requirements, and reduced crowds at football matches.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2020