COVID-19 crisis: Modi govt's attempts to stifle criticism 'inexcusable', says Lancet editorial

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Medical journal The Lancet on Saturday severely criticised the Narendra Modi government's handling of the COVID-19 crisis, saying that its actions in attempting to stifle criticism and open discussions are 'inexcusable'.

Referring to the large number of people seeking emergency assistance on social media, the editorial said, "...Before the second wave of cases of COVID-19 began to mount in early March, Indian minister of health Harsh Vardhan declared that India was in the "endgame" of the epidemic. The impression from the government was that India had beaten COVID-19 after several months of low case counts, despite repeated warnings of the dangers of a second wave and the emergence of new strains."

It further noted, "Modelling suggested falsely that India had reached herd immunity, encouraging complacency and insufficient preparation, but a serosurvey by the Indian Council of Medical Research in January suggested that only 21 percent of the population had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2."

"The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that India will see a staggering 1 million deaths from COVID-19 by 1 August. If that outcome were to happen, Modi's government would be responsible for presiding over a self-inflicted national catastrophe," the article remarked.

The Lancet editorial also slammed attempts to clamp down on citizens' SOS calls, saying that at times, the Modi government has seemed more intent on removing criticism on Twitter than trying to control the pandemic.

Last month, the Uttar Pradesh government had said that it would prosecute people under National Security Act for allegedly raising 'false alarms' on social media. This had attracted strong censure from the Supreme Court, which had said it would take contempt action against police officers who clamped down on citizens expressing their grievances.

The editorial on Saturday said that the country should rationalise its 'botched' vaccination campaign and implement it with all due speed.

"Genome sequencing needs to be expanded to better track, understand, and control emerging and more transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants. Local governments have begun taking disease-containment measures, but the federal government has an essential role in explaining to the public the necessity of masking, social distancing, halting mass gatherings, voluntary quarantine, and testing," it said.

The Lancet editorial came on a day when India registered a record 4,187 COVID-19 deaths in 24 hours. A total of 4,01,078 new cases were reported during the same period, taking the caseload to 2,18,92,676.

 

Also See: As COVID-19 cases rise, 350 Indian scientists appeal to Narendra Modi to publicly release virus data

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