There are differing scenes unfolding as the world battles the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the U.S. and the U.K., newly vaccinated people hug their loved ones after a long period of separation.
In India, distressed families count their dead. India is reporting over 300,000 new cases and 3,000 deaths across the country each day at present, with the total number of deaths having just passed the 200,000 mark – which is about one in 16 of all COVID deaths across the world.
While the crisis in India may be on the other side of the world, it is a national crisis with global repercussions.
With the global supply of vaccines unlikely to pick up until the end of this year, what is required now is international leadership to fairly distribute the vaccine. This will involve countries considering beyond their own health crises to see that the pandemic could still get much worse without intervention.
Allowing the virus to circulate unchecked increases the risk that dangerous new strains will emerge and prolong the pandemic. The more the virus spreads, the more chances it has to mutate and create variants that could eventually resist current vaccines, threatening to undermine other countries’ progress in containing the pandemic.
If the Indian outbreak cannot be contained and spreads to neighboring countries with low vaccine supplies and weak health care systems, the world risks repeating what has unfolded in India, especially if newer, potentially more contagious variants are allowed to take hold.
Preventing this spread from India requires strict quarantines and travel restrictions. This is bad news for airlines, airports and the businesses that depend on them, so this will have a large dampening effect on global economic growth.
As India has a leading role in making vaccines for other nations, failing to stop its spread there could endanger the vaccine rollout worldwide.
The crisis in India has already meant that exports of the vaccine have been postponed or called off, leaving many countries vulnerable to fresh waves of the virus, and postponing their efforts to return to business as usual. If India is unable to provide vaccine supplies to the rest of the world, we can expect spillover effects in the form of recurrent lockdowns, increased need for social-distancing measures, and a significant decrease in economic activity.
The steep surge in India’s COVID-19 cases has not only taken a toll on the country’s pharmaceuticals, energy, metals, and agriculture markets, it has also cast a shadow on the international price outlook of some commodities.
With over 1.3 billion people, India alone counts for one-sixth of humanity. It is the fifth largest economy in the world and contributes significantly to world economic growth. And India’s crisis will not be contained within its borders. The crisis in India could worsen the health threat to all. Other second-order economic consequences will follow; at the very least, India’s lost economic productivity will hurt global trade and investment.