India posts record COVID-19 cases, 13-fold jump over two months

Kate HodalWed, 7 April 2021, 6:01 am

<img src="https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/I9HQFY9LC48ftLWU_xJ9hw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/xPkG9BRRPtWGLm0ImZ_V9w–~B/aD02MDA7dz0xMDAwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/1e5f884d44d8644c1c0e849e387ea4f8&quot; alt="<span>Photograph: Barcroft Media/Getty
Photograph: Barcroft Media/Getty

Amnesty International has published a stark rebuke of the UK government’s stance on human rights, saying that it is “speeding towards the cliff edge” in its policies on housing and immigration, and criticising its seeming determination to end the legal right for the public to challenge government decisions in court.

In its annual report on human rights around the world, Amnesty International says the UK’s increasingly hostile attitude towards upholding and preserving human rights legislation raises “serious concerns”.

The report also highlights Britain’s poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic, recent assaults on the right to protest, police discrimination against black and Asian communities, and the resumed arms trade with Saudi Arabia.

“For years, the UK has been moving in the wrong direction on human rights – but things are now getting worse at an accelerating rate,” said Amnesty International’s UK director, Kate Allen.

“Having made mistake after lethal mistake during the pandemic, the government is now shamefully trying to strip away our right to lawfully challenge its decisions, no matter how poor they are.”

The report – which details 2020 global human rights trends, as well as those of 149 individual countries – condemns the UK’s high Covid-19 death rate, one of the highest in Europe, which saw at least 74,570 deaths over the course of the year, many of them in care homes. The failure to provide adequate PPE and regular testing, the direct discharge of infected patients from hospitals to care homes and blanket imposition of do not resuscitate orders on care home residents without due process all gave rise to further serious concern, the report says.

The refusal to conduct an urgent independent inquiry into its handling of the pandemic is a “shocking demonstration that there is no appetite from this government to learn lessons and apply them in real time”, said Allen. “There needs to be an inquiry that gets to the bottom of all of this.”

Related: ‘Narcos are looking for me’: deadly threats to Peru’s indigenous leaders

The report also underscores the disproportionately high death rate among black and minority ethnic healthcare workers, as well as racial discrimination against black and Asian people by police during 2020. Official figures show that black people are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, and more likely to have force used against them, said Amnesty.

The government’s decision in July to resume military exports to Saudi Arabia, resulting in about £1.4bn worth of sales, while slashing foreign aid to Yemen, was also heavily criticised in the report.

Amnesty expressed serious concern about the government’s reviews into the Human Rights Act and judicial review – both of which “are being sped through during the pandemic” and could seriously diminish the public’s capacity to challenge government decisions, said Allen. The report also highlighted the controversial and far-reaching police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, which Amnesty warns could severely curtail the right to peaceably challenge or protest in the UK.

Two separate pieces of legislation that could effectively give “get-out clauses” for rape, murder and torture to police, MI5 officers and overseas military personnel are also deeply troubling, said Allen.

“On the right to protest, on the Human Rights Act, on accountability for coronavirus deaths, on asylum, on arms sales or on trade with despots, we’re speeding toward the cliff edge,” said Allen.

“We need to stop this headlong rush into abandoning our human rights.”Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting.Reuters

India posts record COVID-19 cases, 13-fold jump over two months

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New Delhi
Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New Delhi

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India posts record COVID-19 cases, 13-fold jump over two months

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New DelhiKrishna N. Das and Rama VenkatWed, 7 April 2021, 5:56 am

By Krishna N. Das and Rama Venkat

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -India’s second wave of coronavirus infections continued to swell as it reported a record 115,736 new cases on Wednesday, a 13-fold increase in just over two months and raising pressure on the government to expand its vaccination campaign.

The federal government has asked states to decide on local curbs to control the spread of the virus, but has so far refused to impose any national lockdown after the last one in 2020 devastated its economy and left millions of people penniless.

The total number of cases since the first recorded infection in India just over a year ago now stands at 12.8 million, making it the third worst hit country after the United States and Brazil.

Deaths rose by 630 – the most in four days – to 166,177, according to data from the health ministry.

Ominously, the daily increase has topped 100,000 twice this week. The only other country to post such numbers has been the United States.

Daily infections in India have also passed the peak of the epidemic’s first wave, seen in September. The country had reported a multi-month low of 8,635 cases in early February.

And as the second wave gathered momentum, authorities in many states including hardest hit Maharashtra have ordered new local restrictions to contain the virus, some of whose variants have become more infectious.

“The pandemic isn’t over and there is no scope for complacency,” Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Twitter, urging people to get “vaccinated on your turn and follow COVID-appropriate behaviour scrupulously!”

But many states have criticised the federal government as India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, has restricted its immunisation drive to front-line workers and people aged over 45 years.

States like Odisha have also flagged shortages of supplies even for the prioritised groups. Odisha’s chief health official, P.K. Mohapatra, wrote to the federal health ministry on Tuesday warning that the state only had enough vaccines for three days.

The ministry has repeatedly told Odisha and other states that it replenishes stocks based on immunisation patterns, and that supplies are adequate in the country. It has not yet replied to Mohapatra’s latest letter complaining of shortages.

India has so far administered 85 million doses, more than 90% of those the AstraZeneca shot made by the Serum Institute of India. The rest has come from Indian company Bharat Biotech that has developed a vaccine with a government research body.

Both vaccines require two doses. More than 74 million people in India have received at least one dose.

Only the United States and China have vaccinated more people, having started their campaigns earlier. But with the contagion accelerating, India is in a far harder race to increase immunity among its population of 1.35 billion people.

Compelled by its domestic needs, India has now delayed exports of large quantities of vaccines, though 64.5 million does have been shipped so far.

“We are supposed to be the pharmacy of the world, what kind of pharmacy is this that cannot provide vaccines to even a small portion of its people,” said a government official who declined to be named.

“How long can you justify this situation to your people.”

(Reporting by Rama Venkat, Krishna N. Das, Jatindra Dash and Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Shri Navaratnam & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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