India coronavirus crisis 'demonstrates risk of what can happen' if pandemic isn't controlled, Zients says

India coronavirus crisis 'demonstrates risk of what can happen' if pandemic isn't controlled, Zients says

White House officials on Friday warned that the current coronavirus crisis in India is an example of what could happen elsewhere should the pandemic go uncontrolled. 

White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients made the warning during a coronavirus briefing on Friday. 

“This is a global pandemic. And India demonstrates the risk of what can happen if we don’t get the pandemic under control everywhere,” he said, adding the country serves as a prime example of “why we made the biggest investment in COVAX.”

“We are committed to sharing vaccine supply as our confidence around our supply increases. We will explore those options,” he added. 

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Also speaking to the crisis in India, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical officer, called the coronavirus situation in India “terrible” and “dire,” noting that on Thursday, the country had the “largest number of cases that has ever been reported by any country” since the start of the pandemic. 

“They have a situation there where there are variants that have arisen. We have not yet fully characterized the variants and the relationship between the ability of the vaccines to protect. But we’re assuming clearly that they need vaccines. The [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] is helping out by consulting with them, as they have in other countries in which there are situations and giving technical assistance,” he said.

India’s underfunded health system is tattering as the world’s worst coronavirus surge wears out the nation, which set a global record in daily infections for a second straight day with 332,730.

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India has confirmed 16 million cases so far, second only to the United States, in a country of nearly 1.4 billion people. India has recorded 2,263 deaths in the past 24 hours for a total of 186,920.

Cases have spiked in the country recently amid reports of superspreader gatherings and overwhelmed hospitals. 

On Wednesday, a leaking oxygen tank at a hospital in the western city of Nashik left at least 22 patients on respirators dead due to lack of oxygen, the Washington Post reported.

Ramanan Laxminarayan, the director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy, blamed the crisis on “complacency and lack of preparation by the government” for allowing large meetings and festivals to take place and failing to warn people to stay vigilant especially as the new variants enter the country, per the New York Times. 

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As more people get vaccinated in the U.S. and other wealthy countries, around 40% of new global cases are coming from India, the newspaper reported. 

Although some 132 million Indians have already been vaccinated, the country likely won’t be able to inoculate its goal of 300 million by this summer because of vaccine shortages, experts have warned. 

“It is a dire situation that we’re trying to help in any way we can. We just have to see how things go. And obviously, they need to get their people vaccinated because that’s the only way we’re going to turn that around,” Fauci added during the White House briefing. 

Fox News’ Brie Stimson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.