On Friday May 7th, the number of new COVID-19 cases for the week ran up to 1.57 million in India. Transport problems and a lack of vaccines result in a dramatic fall in their vaccination rates while new cases spike.
On the same day, India reported 3,915 deaths with a record of 414,188 new cases. In total, the death toll from COVID-19 stands at 234,083 deaths.
The second wave
Ever continuing upwards, India’s second wave of COVID-19 brings its total number of cases to 21.49 million people now. From overcrowded cities to remote rural villages, the infection is spreading far and wide. Infections are reaching nearly 70 per cent of the country’s 1.3 billion people.
The real extent of COVID-19 in India is five to 10 times more than the official tallies according to medical experts. This is because a large number of cases are going unreported.
Festivals and rallies
Religious festivals and political rallies drawing tens of thousands of citizens in recent weeks have become “super-spreader” events. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being criticised widely for not acting sooner to suppress the second wave.
The Modi government is also receiving heavy criticism for the delays in the country’s vaccination programme. India’s only hope of controlling the second COVID-19 wave is its vaccination programme, according to medical experts.
Headlines in the Hindustan Times demanded: “Accelerate the vaccine drive, get the second wave of the pandemic under some control.”
Ironically, India is the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer. However, it is struggling to produce enough doses to stem the wave of COVID-19 domestically.
PM Modi stressed vaccination rates must be kept up by the Indian states. At least 157 million vaccine doses were administered in the country. However, in recent days, its vaccination rate has fallen sharply due to supply shortages.
In the Mint newspaper, Amartya Lahiri, an economics professor at the University of British Columbia said “After having achieved a rate of around 4 million a day, we are now down to 2.5 million per day due to vaccine shortages.“
“The 5 million a day target is the lower bound of what we have to aim for, since even at that rate, it will take a year for us to get everyone two doses. The situation unfortunately is very grim.”
Word from the EU
On Thursday, the US proposed to discuss waiving patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines, especially in poorer and vulnerable countries. This proposal will enable an increase in the manufacture, supply and access to the vaccines. The proposal received support from the European Union.
The road to an impending crisis
With mounting COVID-19 patients, India’s healthcare system is struggling as hospitals run out of beds and medical oxygen. Makeshift funeral pyres burn openly in parks and car parks as crematoriums cannot cope with the number of dead bodies.
Daily infections in five southern states in the country surged from 28 per cent to 33 per cent in the first seven days of May. This is despite northern and western India bearing the brunt of the disease. This information is from government data.
Two weeks ago, government data showed a vacancy rate of over 20 per cent in Chennai. Today only 1 out of 100 oxygen supported beds is available. Similarly, there are only 2 out of 100 beds available in the Intensive Care Units (ICUs).
The grim situation is similar in the tech city of Bengaluru. Only 23 of the 590 beds in ICUs are vacant, while only one in 50 beds with a ventilator is available. According to government officials, this is a situation heading to an impending crisis.
Ambulance service is next to impossible to obtain. To ferry COVID-19 patients, New Delhi’s ubiquitous three-wheeled autorickshaws have become makeshift ambulances.
Raj Kumar is an autorickshaw driver clad in PPE. Raj said “We must all help each other out at this time of need to get out of this situation.” At the back, there is a plastic partition between him and the passengers.
“If everyone stays home because they are scared, then who is going to help those in need?”
Several Indian states are imposing various levels of social restrictions to try to stem infections. The federal government, however, is still resisting the imposition of a national lockdown.
In the Hindustan Times, columnist Vir Sanghvi wrote “At times like this, people look for some sign that politicians are listening … what is happening today is a betrayal of hope and a slap in the face of the dream that was a modern progressive India.”
“We will beat COVID eventually. But by then thousands more will have lost their lives.”
On Twitter, foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said foreign countries continued to pour in aid. Medical consignments from Poland, Netherlands and Switzerland reached India on Friday.
8th May 2021 23:00
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