With the pandemic pushing millions into poverty or bankruptcy, many Indians are now turning to their last resort: selling their gold jewellery to make ends meet.
Paul Fernandes, a 50-year-old waiter in India, last year took out a loan using his gold as collateral to pay for his children’s education after losing his job on a cruise liner. This year, he is selling his gold jewellery to meet expenses, after failed attempts at starting a home business and finding another job.
“A gold loan is after all a debt that I am taking on,” he said from his hometown in the coastal state of Goa. “Selling my jewellery means I am not obligated to pay someone back along with an additional interest on that.”
Even as the fresh Covid-19 cases have been declining across India, it has hit the economy hard. Small businesses may be the bedrock of the Indian economy, helping expand its industrial base and creating jobs by the millions, but the pandemic has shown it’s better to be bigger, according to research by Societe Generale.
The so-called micro-, small-, and medium-enterprises haven’t benefitted much from the government’s stimulus steps such as liquidity and loan moratorium, forcing them to let go a large swathe of their employees, Kunal Kundu, an economist with Societe Generale GSC Pvt. in Bengaluru, wrote in a Societe Generale note. While the bigger companies sailed through with a minor blip, he said.
The nation reported 37,154 new coronavirus infections on Monday, taking the tally to 3,08,74,376, while the total recoveries crossed three crore, according to the Union Health Ministry data. The death toll climbed to 4,08,764 with 724 fresh fatalities.
The active cases have declined to 4,50,899 and comprise 1.46 per cent of the total infections, while the national Covid-19 recovery rate has increased to 97.22 per cent.
The deadly second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the end of which is still far away, has brutally exposed that the fault lines within our healthcare system, with reports of shortage of hospital beds, oxygen and essential medicine. The PM’s grand announcement of vaccine for all from May 1 proved to be yet another case of bluster and ended a dud, with most state governments suspending the largely symbolic vaccine drive for the age group of 18-44 years.
On the vaccination front, there has been a decline in average daily vaccination against the coronavirus since June 21, when the new phase of universalisation of Covid-19 vaccination commenced. According to data available on the Co-WIN platform, an average of 61.14 lakh doses of Covid-19 vaccine were administered daily in the week from June 21-27 which dropped to 41.92 lakh doses daily in the subsequent week from June 28-July 4.
India has been vaccinating about 30 lakh to 40 lakh people per day. However, former Niti Aayog vice chairman Arvind Panagariya feels that the current vaccination rate is “simply not good enough” and at least 20 lakh more people should be accommodated in the vaccination drive per day.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday took a swipe at the central government, saying that while the number of ministers has, the number of Covid-19 vaccines have not. He also shared a chart of the average vaccinations per day, which are falling short of the target to vaccinate all adults by December 2021.
Even as India struggles to vaccinate a majority of the population with the required two doses, evidence suggests that a third dose (or "booster shot") may be required to contain the still-active pandemic.
An ongoing study at Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research suggests that as many as between 15 per cent to 20 per cent of people vaccinated with two doses would definitely require a booster shot. “This is due to the fact that only 80 per cent of 300 fully vaccinated healthcare workers subject to an antibody test showed ‘effective’ levels of antibodies a month later,” explained Dr C N Manjunath, Director of Jayadeva.
Meanwhile, Dr Anthony Fauci emphasised that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was committed to following the science and said that boosters were not recommended “right now”, given that more than 90 per cent of Covid-related new hospitalisations were in unvaccinated patients. But he did not rule out the possibility that boosters might eventually be advisable for certain populations.
Along the same lines, Pfizer plans to meet top US health officials Monday to discuss the drugmaker's request for federal authorisation of a third dose of its Covid-19 vaccine as President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser acknowledged that "it is entirely conceivable, maybe likely” that booster shots will be needed.
A new study on an experimental intranasal vaccine showed that the vaccine protected the mice from fatal doses of SARS-CoV-2 by creating antibodies in them and also blocked animal-to-animal transmission of the Covid-19 virus. The study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Iowa (UI) and the University of Georgia was published in the Science Advances journal on July 2.
With new variants of SARS-CoV-2 coming to the fore, Indian scientists, who discovered the Delta variant in Ahmedabad wastewater one month before the first clinical case was reported in the Gujarat capital, have been stressing surveillance of sewage water with genome sequencing tools to identify genetic changes in Covid-19.
In Bengaluru, a new viral infection, Cytomegalovirus (CMV), is plaguing recovered Covid patients after several other post-covid ailments. Doctors believe those who have suppressed immunity or have been given steroids to treat severe Covid contract this viral infection.
As the fear of a third Covid-19 wave looms large, renowned virologist and former INSACOG chairman Dr Shahid Jameel said that there are three major factors that would indicate how severe a third wave, if it arises, would be: 1) the behaviour of people following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, 2) exposure and vaccination against the virus, and 3) the emergence of a more severe variant of the virus.
Dr Jameel suggested that a quick serosurvey be conducted to determine what percentage of the population had been exposed to the coronavirus and explained that the situation would vary hugely based on whether 50 per cent of people were exposed to Covid-19 or 70 per cent.
As the nation braces for a third wave, India is likely to consider the issue of vaccinating 12-18-year-old children after another three months, by when the drug regulator would be able to examine the clinical trial data on nearly 1,000 adolescents who participated in the evaluation exercise of a new Covid-19 vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical major Zydus Cadila.
Earlier this month, Zydus Cadila said it had submitted only safety and tolerability data on children to the regulator and would take about a month to analyse and submit the efficacy data on kids. The indigenous DNA vaccine ZyCoV-D has been found to be 66.6 per cent effective in adults.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) is likely to take a decision on including Bharat Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin in the emergency use list (EUL) within four to six weeks, Soumya Swaminathan, the global health body's chief scientist has said.