India postponed medical exams so students can help fight the country's devastating COVID-19 surge

India postponed medical exams so students can help fight the country's devastating COVID-19 surge
A doctor tends to a patient inside an ambulance in Ahmedabad, India.Amit Dave/Reuters
  • India has paused its medical exams to allow student doctors and nurses to fight COVID-19.
  • The country has reported more than 20 million cases, the second-highest case toll in the world.
  • India has been struggling to fight the surge, with shortages in labor, beds, oxygen, and vaccines.

India postponed its medical exams so that doctors and nurses in training can help with the country's devastating COVID-19 surge.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday approved the pausing of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for postgraduate medics (NEET-PG) for at least four months, The Economic Times reported.

India's medical system has been struggling to cope with the unprecedented wave of cases amid an acute shortage of bed space, oxygen, and vaccines. The problem has also been complicated by the emergence of a new variant first identified in the country.


The country's total case count surpassed 20 million coronavirus cases on Tuesday, making it the second-highest in the world after the US.

However, the actual figure may be far higher than reported, according to Time. The death toll - currently logged at just over 222,000 - may also be under-reported.

The country reported 368,000 new cases on Sunday, lower than its Friday reported peak of just over 400,000, according to Johns Hopkins University's case tracker.


Several states had already pressed final-year students into duty, according to the Indian economic newspaper Mint. For example, as of Saturday the city Kolkata had called around 3,000 trainee doctors into service, The Times of India reported.

Modi's Monday decision now frees up a large pool of medical students nationwide to tackle the virus without exams looming.

His move followed calls from the influential cardiac surgeon Dr. Devi Shetty, who outlined the numbers of doctors and nurses needed to see out the crisis at a recent conference, The Indian Express reported.


"Once the oxygen problem is solved, the next problem over the next few weeks will be the death of patients in ICUs because there are no nurses and doctors to take care of them," Shetty was reported as saying, arguing that students must be pressed into service to fill the backlog.