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Dear Prime Minister Modi
CC: World Health Organisation
Urgently act to save lives in the Covid-19 crisis!
We are writing to you to express our deep dismay about the exponential rise in Covid-19 infections and deaths in India over the last few weeks. This is a tragedy of unimaginable proportions for which you as the Prime Minister of India you must take responsibility – more so because your government’s policies have contributed directly to this situation. As senior BJP leader Amit Malviya has revealed, you were aware of the impending second wave. Despite this you continued to export vaccines, continued to export oxygen, and did not stockpile essential anti-viral medications. You actively encouraged the Kumbh Mela, a virus super-spreader to go ahead and you and your party leaders continued holding massive roadshows and election rallies where you boasted of the size of crowds and appeared without a mask.
We urge you to take the following actions immediately in order prevent further loss of life
1. Declare a Covid-19 emergency immediately. Accept international aid and procure oxygen cylinders, anti-viral drugs and other essentials as a matter of urgency and provide them free to hospitals across the country. Every day that passes without these life-saving items results in thousands more deaths (a global record of nearly 332, 730 new cases reported, and many more unreported, on 22nd April alone, for example).
The pandemic has exposed the abysmal infrastructure of healthcare in India which has been neglected in the seven years your government has been in power. The virus will not vanish overnight and investment in infrastructure is essential for India’s immediate, as well as long-term, future
2.Immediately reverse decisions you have recently taken which allow pharmaceutical companies to fix prices of vaccines from 1 May on. Pharmaceutical companies being allowed to fix prices will be disastrous. Adar Poonawala CEO of the Serum Institute of India has already said he wants ‘super profits’. This will mean that poorer people will not be able to afford vaccines and this in turn will lead to further rampant infections, deaths increasing, the virus mutating further and posing a global hazard. We urge you to declare a national emergency with vaccines categorised as essential commodities with compulsory licensing, prices fixed by the government and exports banned.
3.We also urge you to immediately reverse the decision by which vaccine manufacturers will provide 50% to central government and the rest would be available for sale to States and private agencies on the open market with no price controls. The government must not to abandon its long-established Constitutional duty of providing vaccines against infectious diseases which cross borders to all Indians, irrespective of what State they live in. While the States and local authorities have the capacity and capability to administer huge numbers of vaccines they do not have the resources to buy vaccines on the market. If forced to do so, many states will be unable to procure vaccines and people will die in even larger numbers. Instead of using the promise of universal free Covid-19 vaccines as a cynical election ploy in various states, you must make this basic right possible by reversing this dangerous decision. At this time of unprecedented crisis, we urge you to prioritise people’s lives, not corporate profits and political manipulation.