COVID-19 Pandemic: Surpassing Islamic Republic Of Iran, India Now 10th – Out Of 188 Countries – Worst-Affected Globally!

The number of n-Coronavirus cases in India has raced past the cases in Islamic Republic of Iran. It may be recalled that Iran was the worst hit country in the middle-east; outside China it was the 2nd hardest affected. In the beginning of the pandemic it was criticized for its slow response to the spread of virus by the western media. For long years Iran has been facing sanctions imposed by the USA, thus blocking selling of crude oil; and accessing international financial markets. This pandemic saw Iran braving the sanctions and refusing “humanitarian aid” by the USA! The closed borders and travel bans created additional challenges for Iran. So Iran sought $5 billion loan from the IMF to fight the virus. USA opposed it.

Iran recorded its first two cases by February 20. By March 21, Iran had 19644 confirmed cases and 1433 deaths while USA had only 14631 cases and 210 deaths. Today, Iran’s number of cases stands at 135701 with 7417 deaths; daily growth rate is 2.1%. USA has 1686436 cases and 99300 deaths. India has now 138536 cases and 4024 deaths; daily growth rate is 5.9%. [Data from https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ accessed on 25.05.2020 at 8.05 a.m.]

Iran had its share of problem created by congregation of devout Muslims in the city of Mashhad, which is home to Iran’s most important Shiite shrine that attracts pilgrims from across the regions including India, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh and middle-east. In spite of calls by Iran’s civilian government to clerics to close such shrines to the public, the shrine in Mashhad remained open. The first two deaths from n-Coronavirus in Qom – a Centre for Islamic Studies and for pilgrims from abroad – were announced on 19 February.

Iranian authorities responded to this development in Mashhad with maturity and wisdom without apportioning blame on pilgrims from neighbouring countries including India. In fact 2000 Indians, mostly Shia pilgrims from Kargil had to be flown back to India at a later date.

About 2 dozen lawmakers in Iran were infected with the virus; Iran’s Deputy Health Minister succumbed to the virus. A council Member close to the Supreme Leader of Iran also died from the virus!

In India the Tablighi Jamaat congregation of a few thousand devout Muslims held in March in Nizamuddin, Delhi was projected as the raison d’être for pan-India spread of n-Coronavirus! Later it emerged that at the most a thousand odd cases may have been added because of Tablighi Jamaat congregation. A mountain was made out of a mole-hill. India now has 138536 cases, not even 1% were contributed by the Tablighi Jamaat.

The witch-hunting, targeting, criminalization of Tablighi members which followed has no parallel in post-independent India during management of any epidemic.  This author has worked in and documented five epidemics in India over fifty years from 1971 onwards. Why were the Tablighi members quarantined for up to 42 days at a stretch?

An apology to the Muslim community is in order. There should be an assurance that in future communal rhetoric would not be allowed to wreck scientific management of any epidemic. The Press Council of India should have taken suo motu action against the (practically) entire (with a few honorable exceptions) print media for failing to report the Tablighi event dispassionately and throwing to the winds journalistic ethics. Those ruling class politicians and senior bureaucrats (who addressed the media-conferences daily) should be facing an independent enquiry. The deathly silence of the top-most medical scientists during those days is astonishing; they could have guided a scientific and secular analysis. They chose to be silent.

President Trump has been blaming, in turn, China all along for producing the virus in a laboratory and releasing it to spread world-wide. Not even a shred of evidence is offered in support by the USA.

Pertinently, the Indian health authorities should have undertaken massive testing during the earlier months of management. They would have detected the asymptomatic cases (termed “super-spreaders”) which eventually led to the case-trajectory of infections zooming upwards. Callousness led to the preventable increase of cases in India. At this rate India is likely to surpass Turkey, Germany, and France in June 2020!

Dr. P. S. Sahni is an independent medico-legal researcher and member of ABVA. Email: aidsbhedbhavvirodhiandolan@gmail.com


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