Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Canada must immediately suspend flights to and from India

As deadly new variants of COVID-19 wreak havoc around the world, two countries of great concern are Brazil and India, each of which is reeling from a huge spike in infections and deaths from new variants, the P.1 variant in Brazil and the B.1.617 in India. The Indian variant — the “double mutant” strain — has two mutations, the E484Q and the L452R. The L452R is especially problematic, as it has 20 per cent greater transmissibility and leads to a greater than 50 per cent reduction in antibody efficacy.

Both Brazil and India have colossally failed in managing the pandemic. Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, for months denied that COVID-19 was a public health issue. The country is now scrambling to respond far too late, as bodies pile up and hospitals are overwhelmed.

There is a similar story in India. As cases began to rise in the middle of February, with the new variant already detected, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was claiming India’s fight against COVID-19 was “inspiring the world.” His health minister, a physician by training, declared that the country had reached the “endpoint” of the pandemic. Many Indians themselves became complacent and behaved as if everything was normal.

Meanwhile, Modi and other politicians continued to hold massive campaign rallies for ongoing state elections where virtually no one wore a mask or observed social distancing. The government allowed major religious festivals to continue, again with no safety measures. With its vaccination drive faltering, India, too, is staring at disaster with its health system collapsing and in some cities, crematoria burning dead bodies on sidewalks because they’ve run out of space.

Wisely, some countries have banned flights from Brazil and/or India. As early as January, the U.K. and U.S. banned flights from Brazil, and many European countries followed suit thereafter, such as Spain in early February, and France most recently. Meanwhile, Hong Kong and New Zealand banned flights from India in the past few weeks. Most recently, after the cancellation of the state visit by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to India, the U.K., too, has banned flights from India. In the case of New Zealand’s travel ban on India, even their own citizens are barred from returning home.

20/04/21 Rupa Subramanya/National Post

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