Indian President Shri Ram Nath Kovind

India’s COVID-19 crisis, Nigeria, Australia, US travel bans and global vaccine productions

*The World Health Organisation says COVAX Initiative has ‘depended heavily’ on the Serum Institute of India for supplies, but the current development in the country is leaving the body ‘very concerned about the delays that are coming in the availability of vaccines’

*Australians flying in from India will face a fine of up to $51,000 and five-year jail term as the government ‘temporarily’ bans its citizens from returning home

*A shutdown will end the cycle of transmission in India and provide a window to take immediate, intermediate and long-range steps out of ‘very difficult and desperate’ situation, says Dr. Anthony Fauci, foremost American scientist and infectious disease expert

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

Following the recent unprecedented increases in the numbers of daily Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic cases in India, crossing the 400,000 mark for the first time, other economies around the world have continued to rush supplies of life-saving oxygen and other medical goods to the world’s second-most populous country.

ConsumerConnect reports that Nigeria has stated that it will also ban travellers from India, Brazil and Turkey over COVID-19 fears in these countries.

Mr. Boss Mustapha, Chairman of Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19

The country’s Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 in a statement Sunday, May 2, 2021, said it is taking the measure in respect of recent concerns about the widespread of Coronavirus in those countries, a presidential committee said on Sunday.

Mr. Boss Mustapha, Chairman of Nigeria’s PSC, in the statement said: “Non-Nigerian passport holders and non-residents who visited Brazil, India, or Turkey within Fourteen (14) days preceding travel to Nigeria, shall be denied entry into Nigeria.”

The ban will take effect from Tuesday, May 4, the statement said.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had announced 43 new confirmed Coronavirus cases Saturday, bringing the country’s total to 165,153, with 2,063 COVID-19 deaths.

According to the Nigerian Government, Indian hospitals, morgues and crematoriums have been overwhelmed as the country has reported more than 400,000 daily cases for more than 10 days straight.

Several families have been left on their own to find medicines and oxygen in the process, it stated.

In Brazil, the new Coronavirus cases have fallen off a late-March peak, but remain high by historical standards. Total deaths in the country are second only to the United States (US).

It was gathered that Brazil reached a self-imposed daily COVID-19 vaccination goal, but a shortage of COVID-19 Vaccine shots poses a risk to the immunisation plan going forward.

The seven-day moving average of shots given rose to 1 million for the first time since applications started in mid-January, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

A total of 47,111,974 million vaccines have been administered in in the South American country, mostly of China’s Sinovac Biotech Limited.

That’s enough to cover almost 15 percent of the population with a dose and fully inoculate 7.4 percent of the people, report noted.

Likewise in Turkey, the government imposed a nationwide “full lockdown” Thursday, April 29, lasting until May 17, in order to curb a surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths, with the world’s fourth highest number of cases and the worst on a per-capita basis among major nations.

Similarly, United States (US) President Joe Biden has banned most travels from India to the country while offering more medical supplies to the world’s second largest population on earth.

Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary

ConsumerConnect gathered Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, in a statement disclosed that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended the travel ban, which “will not apply to US citizens or permanent residents.”

Psaki stated: “The policy will be implemented in light of extraordinarily high COVID-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in the India.”

In a related development, Australia also announced that its nationals in India would face a fine of up to $51,000 and five years in jail if they return home.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt in an e-mailed statement said the pause on allowing in travellers that were in India within 14 days of arriving will take effect from Monday, May 3.

According to the government, breaches of the ban could lead to a fine of A$66,600 ($51,000), five years imprisonment, or both.

In Europe, Russia has begun a 10-day unplanned “holiday” to try to tame a third wave of the pandemic, whereas in the US, weekly infections were at the lowest level since mid-October 2020, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.

The outbreak continues to slow in most states though there has been an uptick in pockets of the West, California excluded, data from the CDC have shown.

Although another 728 people died, amid a continuing decline in fatalities, daily deaths have not exceeded 1,000 since early April this year, according to report.

However, while India opened up vaccinations to all adults Saturday, a Delhi hospital saw at least eight patients dying due to oxygen shortage, according to local media.

It was learnt the deaths indicated the frantic struggles of the country’s healthcare system amid the growth in coronavirus infections.

On the way out of the deepening Coronavirus crisis in the country, there is a suggestion that India needs to shut down the country for a few weeks to control the raging COVID-19 outbreak.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, foremost American scientist, infectious disease expert and one of the leading global voices on the pandemic, told Indian Express newspaper in an interview, that a shutdown will end the cycle of transmission in India.

According to Dr. Fauci, this will provide a window to take immediate, intermediate and long-range steps out of “very difficult and desperate” situation.

Nevertheless, Senior Biden officials told the White House staff Friday, April 30, that more administration’s aides would be allowed to return to the US to work in-person over the coming weeks, according to close sources familiar with the matter.

The loosening of Coronavirus restrictions, announced on a conference call, can proceed because vaccines have been offered to all members of the staff, said one of the sources in Washington, D.C.

Agency says India-like Coronavirus crisis may yet unfold in Africa

Perhaps toeing the Nigeria’s Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 decision on taking a precautionary measure to ban travels to India as surge in Coronavirus cases is overwhelming the country’s weak health systems, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has hinted the Indian crisis may slow vaccine delivery to African countries for vaccinations.

ConsumerConnect reports the Africa CDC is a public health agency of the African Union (AU) to support the public health initiatives of member states and strengthen the capacity of their health institutions to deal with disease threats on the continent.

John Nkengasong, Director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention told an online webinar Thursday, April 29 that a deadly wave of the Coronavirus pandemic as the one currently ravaging India could yet happen in Africa and with even worse consequences.

Nkengasong said: “The situation in India shows we as a continent can’t put our guard down.

“If what is going on in India unfolds in Africa, it will overwhelm our health systems.”

His warning to Africa and Africans is said to have come as the Indian authorities and hospitals struggle to cope with record levels of COVID infections and deaths more than a year after the outbreak of the ravaging pandemic.

What Indian Coronavirus crisis portends for global vaccines rollout

ConsumerConnect gathered the Director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said India’s role as a vaccine manufacturer means the current crisis in the country could have a spillover effect on the global rollout efforts.

Globally, there are 151million estimated COVID-19 cases with deaths exceeding 3.18 million, whereas over 1.13 billion vaccine doses have been administered as of Saturday, May 1, 2021, according to Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

Nkengasong noted: “India produces vaccines, India produces drugs, but yet they have been overwhelmed.

“No doubt the situation in India has severely affected the predictability of vaccine rollout in Africa, too.”

This publication had reported that delays in supply have been experienced by 60 countries allocated doses under the COVAX initiative, which aims to ensure distribution to developing and/or poorer countries, according to vaccine group Gavi.

The vaccines organisation said of these 60 beneficiaries of COVAX facility-allocated doses of COVID-19 Vaccines, 38 of them including Nigeria, are in Africa.

Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, at a separate briefing also said of the unnerving vaccine situation the development in India could have heralded in the affected economies.

The WHO chief stated: “It’s very understandable that a country going through the kind of situation that India is facing, while producing vaccines for much of the world, will seek to use the vaccines to address their own crisis.”

Moeti, who disclosed that COVAX has “depended heavily” on the Serum Institute of India for supplies, said the development is leaving the WHO “very concerned about the delays that are coming in the availability of vaccines.”

Meanwhile, lifesaving oxygen aid has arrived in India as death toll hits the new record, besides a cargo plane loaded with COVID-19 medical supplies from France at the weekend arrived in New Delhi.

In spite of the deepening Coronavirus cases in the country, Regional Director for Africa Nkengasong sounds positive as she said, “we remain optimistic that the vaccines will be shipped out and used.

But then, when does the crisis end, so the Coronavirus vaccine manufacturers can ramp up productions and enable access to vaccines for enhanced inoculations in countries around the world? Only time will tell.

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