The Central Bank of India stepped up on Wednesday to help counter the second wave of Covid-19 ravaging the country by announcing $ 6.7 billion in cheap loans to the health sector.
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das said the loans would be available until March 31 next year and promised “unconventional” measures if the crisis were to worsen.
Shaktikanta Das was speaking as India has counted 3,780 deaths and 382,000 new infections in the past 24 hours.
This exponential increase in the epidemic is attributed in particular to religious and political gatherings authorized in recent months and to the inaction of the authorities.
“The immediate goal is to preserve human life and restore livelihoods by any means possible,” Das added.
– “devastating speed” of the epidemic –
However, he did not recommend nationwide containment, restrictions having already been put in place in regions severely affected by the virus.
“The devastating speed with which the virus affects different regions of the country must be compensated by rapid and far-reaching actions, sequenced, calibrated and well programmed,” said Shaktikanta Das.
These new measures are intended to improve access to emergency health care during the pandemic, he said, by making it easier for banks to provide cheap loans to hospitals, oxygen makers and others. even to the sick.
The Central Bank will also give some business enterprises additional time to repay their loans in order to support the economy, Das also said.
The dilapidated and underfunded Indian health system is struggling to overcome the influx of Covid-19 patients, some of whom die at the doors of hospitals, for lack of treatment and oxygen.
The Asian giant has recorded more than 222,000 deaths and nearly 20.3 million infections since the start of the pandemic, a record that some experts consider largely undervalued.
– Risk of 500,000 new cases per day –
Some experts have estimated that the rise in the number of infections was likely to last until the end of May and reach 500,000 new cases per day.
The country has tried to bounce back after several months of strict containment that caused the labor market to collapse and its economy to contract nearly a quarter between April and June last year.
Asia’s third-largest economy was already in the throes of a slowdown even before the pandemic broke out, and the blow to global activity by Covid-19 coupled with strict containment of the country have severely worsened its situation.
Fearing a repeat of the economic devastation suffered last year, authorities have so far imposed restrictions but remain reluctant to generalized containment.
On Sunday, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) called on the government to act and “reduce economic activity”.
“The highest response measures must be taken to break the chain of contagion and also use this period to quickly build capacity,” said CII boss Uday Kotak.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has remained deaf even to the Supreme Court’s request to consider tougher measures.
To boost its economy, New Delhi is counting on its mass vaccination campaign which began in January, with 160 million vaccines administered to date to a population of 1.3 billion.