Terming the situation in India "very desperate", America's top public health expert Dr Anthony Fauci has suggested the government marshal all its resources, including the armed forces, to immediately build makeshift field hospitals, and urged other countries to help with not only materials but also personnel.
Following is the transcript of an exclusive interview of Dr Fauci, by PTI's Washington correspondent:
Can you start with your assessment of the situation in India right now?
Fauci: I think it's quite obvious to everyone that the situation in India is extremely serious. I mean to have the level of infection that they're having right now is, is really quite. I would say. Let me get the right word so that we don't get taken out of context. It's something that is of the highest degree of series, when you have so many people getting infected and the lack of the capability to take adequate care of everyone. When you have shortages of hospital beds and shortages of oxygen and shortages of supplies that really becomes a very desperate situation which is the reason why we feel it's important for the rest of the world to help out, to the extent they can, and that India itself can be doing things that I think could address this very emergent situation.
So, the two questions are how and in what way the world can help India right now. And secondly, what are the steps you think India should take to address this situation on a firefighting basis?
Fauci: Well, I think the world can help by supplying India with materials, and perhaps even personnel, but certainly, materials that they need to adequately address it, for example, as you will know. The US is supplying oxygen support with an initial delivery of over 1,000 cylinders of oxygen, as well as oxygen concentrators and oxygen generation units.
The US is also getting personal protective equipment, as well as supplies to help the Indians, to be able to manufacture vaccines themselves, that would be needed in the rural, so sending rapid diagnostic tests. We send a million of these, as well as therapeutics, such as the drug remdesivir. And in addition, we're working hand in hand with our CDC experts and India's own experts in the area of Surveillance Epidemiology vaccine rollout, and things like that When there are emergencies in other countries. And, I think given the fact that India is under such terrible stress right now with the extent of the outbreak that the rest of the world should pitch in to help them, similar to what the US is doing. I forgot what was another question.
Steps you think India should take now to address this?
Fauci: Yeah, you know, I had mentioned this to another outlet a few days ago, so I'll repeat it for you. I mean there are certain things that couldn't be done immediately. There are things that can be done on an intermediate basis and then there's the long-range thing. First of all, right now, they should start getting as many people vaccinated as they possibly can. With vaccine that they develop themselves in India, as well as supplies of vaccines that they may be able to procure from other suppliers, be that the United States, Russia whatever country is willing whenever companies are willing to supply vaccine, in addition to the vaccines that India itself can make, however, getting someone vaccinated.
Now, (it) does not solve today's problem. It helps to prevent a problem several weeks from now, so that becomes part of the intermediate, and the long-range solution, But the solution immediately right now is you have to, and I know India is already doing it, so I'm not telling you something that you are not already doing a few days ago.
I recommended, and I believe at least parts of India are doing it, that you shut down the country in lockdown, because other countries including for example, what China did last year, what Australia did when they had an outbreak, what New Zealand did, what other countries did is to completely lockdown for a relatively limited period of time, you don't have to lock down for six months you can lockdown for a few weeks because when you lockdown, it's well known, with the experience of other countries that locked down, definitely interferes with the dynamics of the viral outbreak. And you could interfere with the continuity and the transmission of infection. That's the first thing.
The second thing is that you will recall again last year when China had a very serious problem. They marshalled their resources very, very rapidly, built new hospitals, to be able to handle all the people who required hospitalisation. And although I have not been to India to see this myself. Recently, from what I see in the media, that is a drastic shortage of hospital beds, and people are being taken care of in makeshift arrangements so it wouldn't be possible, perhaps, with the help of your own military to put up field hospitals that you would do if this were awarded time, so that people who are sick and require a hospital bed, will have a hospital bed. So, those are some of the things that I would recommend they do.
Anything else you would like to talk about India or any other thing for the awareness of the Indian audience?
Fauci: No, I think it's important that there's a great deal of solidarity, and the people of the rest of the world, certainly those of us in the United States. Since we have such a close relationship with India. We are very sorry that India is going through this very, very difficult time.
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