These are the lessons India’s brutal second wave has taught the ...

World

These are the lessons India’s brutal second wave has taught the world

Emerging nations have a lot to learn from the country’s cataclysm ... and the West needs to do its bit too

Mihir Sharma

In cities at least, India’s nightmarish second wave of Covid-19 finally seems to be ebbing. Delhi has brought its test positivity rate below 2% for the first time in two months. The pandemic’s scars won’t be easily erased, however — and they should be a warning to other developing nations. Those countries must learn from India’s experience if they don’t want to repeat it. 

The first and most obvious lesson is to avoid overconfidence. A small change in how transmissible the novel coronavirus is can have large, non-linear effects on how fast it spreads. That means strategies that kept the pandemic at bay in 2020 won’t necessarily work in 2021. As new variants emerge, health authorities might need to lock down more firmly and in a more targeted fashion to remain safe.

To do so, they’ll also need to test more widely and perform more genomic sequencing so that they can track which variants are spreading in the population and where. This won’t be easy. Even India, with an extensive scientific establishment, ranks 102nd in the world in the proportion of reported cases sequenced. Other emerging nations will struggle even more...

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