The British Prime Minister's first travel destination after the recent Brexit was set.
Boris Johnson announced in mid-December that he was “absolutely delighted” to travel to India in early 2021 and give the go-ahead for “an exciting year for Global Britain”.
For British nostalgics and strategists alike, the former crown colony is a jewel in the chain of Commonwealth countries with which London hopes to forge closer ties with its exit from the EU.
But in the very first year of the post-Brexit era, vision meets reality, especially in a question of immense importance: the global supply of corona vaccines from the “world's pharmacy”.
In mid-March, the government of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi unceremoniously stopped the delivery of five million vaccine doses intended for Great Britain.
At that time, a second wave of infections was already emerging in India, which has now fully gripped the country.
As a result, the British vaccination program, which had been rapid to date, suffered a noticeable setback.
It is to be feared that the Indian export ban could be repeated in view of the infection situation there, possibly with consequences for Germany.
A few days ago, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) pointed out relatively unnoticed by the German public that there could be "consequences" if vaccine production did not work reliably.
"With regard to India, we are now in a situation where, because of the emergency there, we are concerned that medicines will still come to us at all," reports the WELT partner publication "Politico" from a conversation between the Chancellor and the EPP Group in the EU -Parliament to which the CDU also belongs.
With a view to the dependence on Indian production, Merkel self-critically expressed that Germany and the EU have “allowed India to become such a large pharmaceutical producer in the first place - on the assumption that contracts will then also be kept.
If that is not the case now, we have to rethink. "
Europe's neglected pharmaceutical industry
Europe urgently needs to build up a larger pharmaceutical production on its own continent and reverse the current relocation trend.
"We haven't treated our pharmaceutical industry in Europe that well for many years," said Merkel.
This dependency could have consequences in view of the vaccination program, which has been catastrophic for a long time in the EU.
Because the government of Prime Minister Modi is under massive pressure.
India recorded a million new infections in the past three days.
On Saturday, 2,767 people infected with the Covid-19 virus died within 24 hours.
Terrifying images of the subcontinent go around the world.
Relatives desperately seek medical help and oxygen for seriously ill people.
Doctors report that they have enough oxygen to supply their patients, if only by the hour.
The hospitals are full: Corona patients in Delhi are supplied with oxygen in the car
Source: Getty Images
Meanwhile, the Modi government is defending its policy of lifting the lockdown at the beginning of the year and allowing mass events with the argument that further restrictions cannot be expected of the 1.4 billion country for “cultural reasons”.
Nationalist Modi is simultaneously closing critical Twitter accounts and harassing the free press, which in any case hardly exists.
In mid-March, Modi then imposed an export ban for the first time, which specifically hit the United Kingdom because half of the ten million ampoules ordered did not materialize.
A general export ban has been in effect since the beginning of April.
Even before Corona, India was considered the “pharmacy of the world” - a large part of the drugs that are also sold in Germany are manufactured in this country.
The Serum Institute of India in Pune alone has a production capacity of up to 100 million vaccine doses per month.
Half of all Astrazeneca ampoules worldwide come from the serum factories, millions of them have already been used in the UK and other countries that are part of the Covax program for poorer countries.
The Serum Institute delivers "50 percent of its production to countries with low and middle income, many of them in Africa," as company boss Adar Poonawalla explained in an interview with WELT.
Over 314,000 - corona infection record and a new variant
India has set a new global record with more than 314,000 new corona infections within 24 hours.
One reason for the second wave could be the Indian variant B.1.617.
Vaccinated people could also become infected with it again.
Source: WORLD / Kevin Knauer
According to the Indian government, no finished Covid vaccines are currently reaching EU countries.
But that is no reason to give the all-clear: in Brussels they point out that India plays a very important role in importing pharmaceutical substances for European vaccine production.
Those vaccination doses that come from plants in Europe also need preliminary products from India.
Chancellor Merkel should have this connection in mind when she warns that the situation in India could endanger the vaccination campaign in the EU.
At the same time, Indian production is one of the decisive factors in the international attempt to achieve global immunity to the virus as quickly as possible.
Otherwise, there is a risk that “mutations will continue to take place and eventually find their way to Europe and North America.
Some of these mutations will bypass the antibodies raised by vaccines, ”warns Professor Vivekanand Jha of the George Institute for Global Health in India to the Daily Telegraph.
Brussels is also aware of this risk.
“The EU is closely monitoring the supply chains of large pharmaceutical companies and the related interconnectivity.
We have to be careful that these supply chains are not interrupted, ”said a spokesman for the EU Commission when asked by WELT.
"The EU imports and exports substantial quantities of active substances that are required for vaccine production in the EU." The authority is still committed to the principle of international solidarity in the fight against the pandemic, but must also make the contractually agreed deliveries of vaccines to the EU - Ensure citizens.
In this context, dependence on India is becoming a growing challenge not only for the British, but also for the EU.
Obviously, not only Chancellor Merkel and her counterpart Boris Johnson see it that way.
Even in Brussels, which is planning an EU-India summit in May, the sometimes unpredictable Narendra Modi is not the preferred partner in the fight against the pandemic.
Are the privileges for vaccinated people coming now?
The Federal Ministry of Justice is said to have developed a template according to which restrictions on vaccinated persons could be removed in the future.
However, such a regulation is highly controversial.
Source: WELT / Jana Wochnik