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India’s Covid Crisis Reaches a Breaking Point

Feature Image Credit: Associated Press / Al Jazeera
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With a soaring death toll, severe battle fatigue, and widespread supply shortages, India continues to cope with a raging second wave of Covid-19.

With experts suggesting the true number of Covid-19 cases in India may well exceed 500 million – some 30 times the official tally – hospitals in India are overwhelmed with the sheer number of patients amid a growing crisis that has led to massive bed and oxygen shortages. Reports on the ground –mainly from social media accounts (the Indian government have been accused of censoring data to minimise death rates) — detail family members of affected patients who have been asked by hospitals to stay and care for their sick loved ones at the risk of getting infected themselves. The situation is so dire sick patients are forced to share beds much to their own detriment.

Covid-19 patients sharing beds in a hospital in New Delhi | Image Credit: Reuters / Al Jazeera

Prospect’s grim report directly from the source cites: ‘India is in the grip of a public health calamity, reporting almost 350,000 new coronavirus cases on April 25, the highest number recorded in one day in any country since the pandemic began.’

‘Hospitals have been pushed beyond all capacity; people are dying laid on stretchers in car parks or in stationary ambulances; metal equipment in crematoriums has melted from the sheer number of bodies.’

‘Social media has become a desperate bulletin board. Messages from people trying to find a vacant hospital bed, a small supply of oxygen, or the antiviral medication remdesivir are flooding Twitter and Facebook.’

‘They have even been joined by hospitals themselves, with a major chain in the capital New Delhi on Friday begging for more supplies on Twitter to save growing crowds of patients who are struggling to breathe. Some of India’s finest hospitals have begun announcing on Twitter how long they have before their oxygen supply runs out: two hours, one hour, 30 minutes.’

Adding to this, crematoriums across the country have been forced to operate around the clock as bodies pile up, and the death toll keeps rising. In the face of immeasurable tragedy, India’s poor faces the worst of it as the country recorded a new global record on April 26: a staggering 352,991 new infections and 2,812 deaths for a fifth consecutive day.

An aerial view of burning pyres of Covid-19 victims in New Delhi | Image Credit: AFP / New Straits Times

As more horrifying accounts are added, Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19 says, “The exponential growth that we’ve seen in case numbers is really, truly astonishing.”

From what we know, much of the medical responsibility now falls on the population themselves as families are forced to take to social media to plead for information on next available hospital beds and oxygen supplies. In response, the Indian government has issued a week-long lockdown in the country’s capital of New Delhi. Millions are facing major vaccine shortages as well, although India is one of the country’s helping to produce the Covishield vaccine.

Image Credit: Associated Press / Al Jazzera

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization said, “The situation in India is beyond heartbreaking. WHO is doing everything we can, providing critical equipment and supplies.” The WHO have deployed more than 2,600 experts to India to help health authorities in further battling the spread of the deadly disease.

OTHER COUNTRIES COME TO INDIA’S AID

Both the US and UK have mobilised in sending ventilators and additional vaccine material to India, while Russia has pledged to send up to one million doses of the remdesivir antiviral drug to them by the end of May. This will be in addition to Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine that is scheduled to arrive in India on May 1.

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Image Credit: Associated Press /Al Jazeera

Several other countries like France and Turkey are answering the international cry for help by promising to send more medical equipment and emergency aid, while tech giants like Google and Microsoft pledging to send monetary relief.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, meanwhile, is facing rising public anger over his handling of the crisis, and has remained generally silent while still permitting religious festivals and election rallies attended by thousands to continue, each a potential superspreader event.

For now, India is in fourth place for highest death toll (behind the US, Brazil, and Mexico) and, having jumped ahead of Brazil in recent days, in second place for total confirmed cases in the world behind the US. The United States remains the worst hit by the pandemic, recording a total of 589,000 deaths and over 33 million infections. However, they have made stunning progress since the vaccine rollout began under newly elected President Joe Biden.

Amid the escalating crisis in India and reports that the country’s ruling party has publicly assumed the blame, experts fear the true number of cases could be over half a billion – exponentially more than the 18 million cases which have been officially reported.




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