Health volunteers go on strike as India hits 2 million coronavirus cases

Hundreds of thousands of health volunteers in India went on strike Friday over a lack of personal protective equipment, as the country crossed the 2 million mark in coronavirus cases.

The 900,000 members of the Accredited Social Health Activists — an all-female community health organization that’s part of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare — began a two-day strike Friday, saying they were brought in to work at quarantine centers and help with contact tracing but were not provided personal protective equipment (PPE), The Associated Press reported.

Volunteers for ASHA, which means “hope” in some Indian languages, have not received masks or even sanitizer, organizer A.R. Sindhu told the AP.

Sindhu also said the volunteer organization is underfunded by the health ministry, with salaries standing at roughly $27 a month.

Almost a dozen ASHA women have died as a result of exposure to the virus during their work, but their families were not compensated from India’s federal insurance for front-line health workers because the deaths were not listed as relating to COVID-19, according to Sindhu.

The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, announced Friday that it would provide vaccines to poorer countries for a maximum of $3 per dose, with financial help from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

India has reported 41,000 coronavirus deaths, putting its mortality rate from the disease at a relatively low 2 percent. As a point of comparison, the mortality rate for the U.S. is 3.3 percent, while Brazil’s is 3.4 percent, according to Johns Hopkins University figures.

The United States’s case fatality rate is higher than that in Chile, India, Argentina, Russia, South Africa, Kazakhstan and Bangladesh.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 India Masks Pandemic PPE sanitizer SERUM INSTITUTE Vaccine

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