We Demand TRIPS Waiver Now - Save lives in India & across South Asia

By the third week of May, India has recorded 26.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 300,000 deaths. The situation is no better across other countries in the region. More than half a million cases have been recorded in Nepal with 6,000 deaths. Infection rates have spiked from less than 1,000 persons per day in April to almost 7,000 in May. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan face similar fates.

Public Services International, the global trade union federation which brings together 30 million workers in 155 countries, expressed its grave concern at the devastating surge of COVID-19 sweeps through India and the South Asia region, at its Executive Board meeting on 26-27 May 2021.

By the third week of May, India has recorded 26.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 300,000 deaths. An astounding proportion of these have occurred in the past one month. Infection rates have risen from less than 100,000 daily in April, to over 300,000.

The situation is no better across other countries in the region. More than half a million cases have been recorded in Nepal with 6,000 deaths. Infection rates have spiked from less than 1,000 persons per day in April to almost 7,000 in May. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan face similar fates.

This is at a time that wealthy countries in the Global North are being able to gradually return to some semblance of normalcy, having vaccinated significant numbers of their populations. While just 5% of the global population has thus far been vaccinated, United States has fully vaccinated 39.3% of its population, Britain 33.1%, France, 14.6%, Germany 13.7%.

Besides these figures, the situation in South Asia is heart-wrenching. India has been able to fully vaccinate 3% of its population, Bangladesh 2.4%, Nepal 1.8%, and Pakistan just 0.6%. This is a sharp reflection of “vaccine apartheid”.

Health and care workers particularly bear the brunt of this dire situation. Years of neoliberal policies have led to the worsening of the state of under-staffed and resource-starved public health systems. Members of PSI affiliates in the region lament having to face “a humanitarian disaster” as best as they can with inadequate equipment and medical supplies.

The world must change this situation by ensuring “universal, timely and equitable access” to vaccines which are safe and efficacious in line with the 73rd World Health Assembly’s COVID-19 Response Resolution.

PSI thus calls on all member states of the World Trade Organization to fully support the TRIPS waiver for COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, to bring an end to the ongoing humanitarian disaster in the region.

We also call on the governments of India and all countries in the region to ensure adequate provision of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers’ occupational safety and health.