BJP General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya recently said that the ongoing COVID-19 second wave in India is China's "viral war" against the country since only India seems to be reeling under a second wave. The party's in-charge in West Bengal made this statement during a programme to distribute oxygen concentrators in Indore.
"We think this (COVID-19 second wave) is a viral war by China to harass our country, because the second wave of COVID-19 was reported only in India and not in the neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Afghanistan," Vijayvargiya can be seen as saying in an ABP News report.
He added that this is because only PM Narendra Modi has challenged China so far.
About his second claim, FactChecker spoke to public health experts and referred to studies conducted on the reasons behind steep rise in COVID-19 cases in India. Both of those again proved Vijayvargiya's claim false.
Fact-checking Claim 1: "No second wave in neighbouring nations"
Pakistan was reeling under the third wave of COVID-19 in April 2021. The first wave peaked on June 19, 2020 with 6,533 and then slowly cases reduced, according to Our World in Data, which sources data from COVID-19 Data Repository by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.
The daily positive cases again started increasing in mid-November when the country started registering more than 2,000 cases per day. And this second wave peaked on December 7 with 3,242 cases. While in the recovery stage, cases again began to rise in March and Pakistan slipped into a third wave in April. The wave saw cases peak on April 23, 2021 with 5,694 people testing positive.
Bangladesh is also struggling to curb the second wave of COVID-19 cases right now. The nation-wide lock down has been extended till May 30 that was earlier announced till May 16 and then till May 23.
The Dhaka Tribune reported that Bangladesh saw a surge in coronavirus infections in June-July last year with daily positive cases being more than 3,000. According to the WHO, the first wave in the country peaked on 4,019 on July 3, 2020 and then slipped into recovery. But cases again began to rise in April and the second wave saw the highest number of confirmed positive cases on April 8, 2021 with the count being 7,626. The country's cumulative death toll stands at 12,441, shows the WHO data.
Sri Lanka, which recovered from its second wave earlier this year, is currently reeling under a third wave of COVID-19 infections owing to the Sinhala and Tamil new year that was celebrated on April 14.
The island nation recorded 3,169 confirmed positive cases on May 25, 2021, which is huge jump from 654 cases a month back on April 25, according to OWD. Sri Lanka has recorded a total of 1.69 lakh positive cases and 1,269 deaths so far, show the WHO records.
Bhutan's PM Lotay Tshering, in a recent address to the nation, said the country's population will be wiped out if the spread of the virus is not controlled. The Himalayan nation, which has a population of 7.6 lakh, is currently witnessing a steep rise in daily cases. After being hit by the second outbreak of the virus in January, Bhutan saw cases this month. On May 22, 2021, it recorded 36 positive cases, according to WHO data.
So far, the country has recorded 1,423 cases and lost one person to the disease. Also, Bhutan has been lauded by the United Nations for managing to contain the COVID-19 pandemic "despite sharing a border with China and India, two countries which have been badly affected by the pandemic".
Afghanistan has already dealt with two waves of COVID-19 and is now bracing for a third. The Afghanistan Health Ministry reported on May 26 that 840 people tested positive and 19 died in the last 24 hours. The ministry added that the third wave of the coronavirus may reach its peak in the next 10 days.
The second wave hit the country in November with its being on November 20 with 377 confirmed cases, shows WHO data. A study conducted by health experts from UK, Afghanistan, China & Nigeria has found that Covid-19 has put additional burden on the already emaciated health care infrastructure of the Islamic republic. Afghanistan has seen a total of 67,743 cases of COVID-19 infections so far and 2,855 deaths, according to WHO.
Factchecker called Vijayvargiya for a comment but did not receive any response.
Fact-checking Claim 2: "Second wave a viral war by China"
Relaxation in Covid-appropriate behaviour led to surge in the infection, wrote Lisa Lockerd Maragakis, Senior Director of Infection Prevention, The Johns Hopkins Health System, in an article. "Unfortunately, the combination of reopening and lapses in these infection prevention efforts has caused the number of coronavirus infections to rise again," wrote Maragakis.
While her explanation is for the rise in cases globally, it doesn't differ much from what public health experts in India have to say.
"Apart from increased transmissibility of the B.1.617 strain, political and religious leaders behaved irresponsibly. They repeatedly announced that they won the war against the virus and cases were declining without realising that nobody can win a war with the virus. This caused complacency in the population," Vineeta Bal, a scientist in the National Institute of Immunology and member of Prime Minister's task force for Women in Science under Ministry of Science and Technology, told FactChecker.
She said this led to dismantling of health care facilities that had been ramped up for Covid emergencies and this was a "bad decision". "This shows how poor the public health infrastructure in India is where temporary facilities are decked up and then dismantled in no time," she added.
AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria, in an interview with ANI, attributed the second wave to two reasons: (1) When in January/February vaccination started and cases went down, people grew complacent and did not follow the Covid appropriate behaviours and (2) Various religious gatherings and election in four states and Union territories contributed to the spread.
Some also believe that the second wave is part of the pandemic following its natural process before waning. "It is a natural process as to how a pandemic evolves in any geographical region. It starts and then eventually wanes after a series of waves. Until herd immunity level of vaccination is administered, the spread of a virus cannot be stopped in any way," said Dr Anand M Pillai, Associate Professor, Global Institute of Public Health, Trivandrum and Director of Ananthapuri Hospitals.
"Moreover, lenient lock downs, relaxation in Covid appropriate behaviours like masking and social distancing is another reason for surge," Pillai ended.