英文

Editorial:Pandemic in India has implications for the world

【明報專訊】The COVID-19 pandemic in India has become a disaster. Over the past week, more than 300,000 people have been diagnosed with the virus every day, and thousands of people have lost their lives daily. With dead bodies piled high like mountains, this is a humanitarian disaster for India. For the whole world, it is also a major warning sign. In the first four months of this year, the number of people who died from the pandemic in the world is equivalent to two-thirds of last year's total. With the explosion of cases in India and the spread of variants with multiple mutations, the global pandemic has hit an inflection point. As things could take a dramatic turn for the worse in the coming months, Hong Kong must remain absolutely vigilant. The unequal distribution of vaccines means that India is facing a shortage of vaccines for saving its people even though it is a major vaccine manufacturer.

As vaccination programmes in the UK and the US have shown initial results in recent months, the pandemic has eased off a bit, fuelling market optimism about an economic recovery in the second half of the year. This has easily led to the illusion that the global pandemic situation has run its course and things are becoming better after hitting rock bottom. But such optimism is at odds with reality. Last year, 1.8 million people died from COVID-19 worldwide. However, not even one-third into the year 2021, the number of deaths has reached 1.2 million. India is now the epicentre of the pandemic, with more than 300,000 new cases confirmed daily for seven consecutive days, and the number of deaths has soared to more than 2,000 a day on average. Hospitals everywhere are bulging at the seams, medical oxygen is in short supply, corpses are piled high like mountains, and crematoriums are overwhelmed. What India is facing today is not merely the collapse of its medical system, but a humanitarian disaster. As pointed out by WHO experts, figures from the Indian authorities are fraught with omissions, meaning that the real numbers of infections and deaths could probably be several times the official figures. What is also worrying is the discovery of variants with multiple mutations in India which are more transmissible. Although many countries have tightened restrictions on entry from India, more than ten countries, including the US, the UK and Israel, have recently discovered cases of variants from India. The risk of the spread should not be underestimated.

That the ''pandemic tsunami'' has swept across India with such ferocity and suddenness was not entirely unexpected. After all, when the first wave of the pandemic broke out in India last summer, many people were already concerned about its situation. Slums in major cities were the worst hit during the first wave of the pandemic in India, and the government locked down cities in response. Although the government was in over its head, the pandemic did ease off gradually, with the average daily number of new cases falling from over 90,000 at the height in September last year to 10,000 in February this year. However, a crisis was already brewing. The government claimed a ''victory'' over the pandemic prematurely, drastically relaxing anti-pandemic measures and ignoring the signs of a rebound of cases. Local elections went on as usual, and politicians held mass rallies. Citizens completely let down their guard, going to football games as usual and participating in large-scale religious festivals. The progress of vaccination was also slow, as just a few tens of millions of people have been vaccinated, translating into just a few per cent of India's entire population. As a result, the second wave of the pandemic has been unstoppable, with middle-class neighbourhoods in big cities such as Mumbai in particularly dire straits.

Of the different kinds of vaccines around the world, 60% are produced in India. The pandemic outbreaks that are going out of control there will greatly affect the global economy and vaccine production.

明報社評 2021.04.29:疫苗大國自救乏力 印度疫情牽動全球

印度疫情成災,單日新增確診連續一周超過30萬人,疫下亡魂天天數以千計,屍體堆積如山。對印度而言,這是一場人道災難;對全世界而言,也是一個重大警號。今年首4個月,全球死於疫情的人數,已相當於去年總數的三分之二,印度疫情大爆發,多重變異病毒擴散,全球疫情迎來新拐點,未來數月有可能急轉直下,香港絕對不能掉以輕心。疫苗分配嚴重不均,印度作為疫苗生產大國,竟缺疫苗救民。

近月英美疫苗接種初見成效,疫情有所放緩,市場對下半年經濟復蘇瀰漫樂觀情緒,容易令人誤以為全球疫情「否極泰來」,現實卻是另一回事。去年全球有180萬人死於疫情,2021年過了未夠三分之一,全球染疫亡人數已達到120萬,印度成為全球新「震央」,連續7天單日新增逾30萬人確診,平均每天超過2000人死亡。各地醫院迫爆,醫用氧氣短缺,屍體堆積如山,火葬場不勝負荷。當前印度所面對的,已不止是醫療崩潰危機,更是一場人道災難。世衛專家指出,由於印度當局的數字有很多遺漏,實際染疫及死亡人數,隨時是官方數字的數倍。同樣令人憂慮的是,當地發現傳播能力更強的多重變異病毒。雖然多國紛紛收緊入境限制,可是美英以色列等10多個國家,最近均發現源自印度的變種病毒個案,蔓延風險不容低估。

「疫情海嘯」席捲印度,來得又急又突然,然而說是出乎意料,似乎又談不上,畢竟去年夏天印度爆發首波疫情時,不少人已關注當地的情况。印度第一波疫情,大城市貧民窟是重災區,當局封城應對,雖見左支右絀,然而疫情總算徐徐放緩,由去年9月高峰期日均新增逾9萬宗,降至今年2月的1萬宗,只是福兮禍所伏,當局太早揚言抗疫「勝利」,大幅放寬防疫措施,忽略疫情復熾苗頭,地方選舉如期舉行,政黨大搞造勢集會,民眾亦將防疫拋諸腦後,如常觀看球賽盛事、參與大型宗教節慶,加上疫苗接種進度緩慢,累計只有數千萬人打過針,僅佔全國人口數個百分點,結果第二波疫情一發不可收拾,孟買等大城市的中產社區災情尤烈。

全球各類疫苗,有六成都是印度生產,當地疫情失控,對全球經濟和疫苗生產都有莫大影響。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

inflection point:a time of significant change in a situation

rock bottom:the lowest point or level that is possible

be bulging at the seams:to be very full, esp. of people

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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