India opened prematurely, says Fauci; lists COVID lessons learned

India’s outbreak underscores the need for a robust public health infrastructure to respond appropriately to this pandemic and future outbreaks, as well, says America’s top infectious disease expert

Dr Fauci is director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden

India is today in ‘dire straits’ because it made the ‘incorrect assumption’ that it was finished with the pandemic and opened up prematurely, America’s top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has told US senators.

India has been severely affected by the unprecedented second wave of the coronavirus and hospitals in several states are facing a shortage of health workers, vaccines, oxygen, drugs and beds.

“The reason that India is in such dire straits now is that they had an original surge and made the incorrect assumption that they were finished with it, and what happened, they opened up prematurely and wind up having a surge right now that were all very well aware of is extremely devastating,” Dr. Fauci told the Senate Health, Education, Labour and Pensions Committee during a hearing on Tuesday on America’s COVID-19 response.

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Also read: Number of new COVID cases peaks, but big variations among states, UTs

Dr. Fauci is director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden.

Chairing the hearing, Senator Patty Murray said that the second wave devastating India is a reminder that the US cannot end the pandemic in America until it ends everywhere.

“I’m glad the Biden administration is leading that global fight by rejoining the World Health Organization and funding global vaccine efforts and committing to donate 60 million AstraZeneca vaccines to other countries by July 4,” she said.

“India’s outbreak underscores the need for a robust public health infrastructure in the US to respond appropriately to this pandemic and future outbreaks, as well,” Senator Murray said as she asked Dr. Fauci what the US could learn from India.

“One of the important things is don’t ever underestimate the situation,” Dr. Fauci said as he referred to the Indian government’s response to the pandemic.

“The second thing is preparedness with regard to public health, preparedness, which we, as a lesson learned for future pandemics, have to realise that we need to continue to build up our local public health infrastructure, which over the last decades we have let actually in many respects go into disarray, likely because of our successes in controlling so many diseases.”

The other lesson “is that this is a global pandemic that requires a global response, and one has to pay attention to the responsibility that we have, not only for our own country but to join with other countries to make sure that we have the access to interventions, particularly vaccines throughout the world”, he said.

“Because if it continues to have dynamics of virus anywhere in the world, we have a threat here in the United States, particularly with variants, and you know there’s one variant in India that is also a new variant. So those are just a few of the lessons that I believe we can take from what’s going on in India,” Dr. Fauci said.

India saw a record rise in COVID-19 deaths with 4,205 fresh fatalities, taking the country’s death toll to 2,54,197, while 3,48,421 new coronavirus infections were reported, according to the Union health ministry data updated on Wednesday.

The tally of COVID-19 cases in India now stands at 2,33,40,938.

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