The second wave and the sparked outrage in India

In just two weeks, India’s second wave of Covid-19 has become disastrous. The country, which was reporting less than 15,000 cases a day just last month, has been seeing over 200,000 Covid-19 infections a day since April 15. Yesterday (April 19), India reported 273,810 new Covid-19 infections and 1,619 deaths—both highest single-day spikes. That takes the active Covid-19 caseload tally up to nearly 2 million.

The devastation has sparked outrage at the lack of preparation among officials who believed that the worst of the pandemic was over. Only two months ago, India was revelling in its success of reining in the spread of the virus. Now it is reporting about 294,000 infections and 2,000 deaths a day.

In early March, India’s health minister Harsh Vardhan declared the country was “in the endgame” of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr Vardhan also lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership as an “example to the world in international co-operation”. From January onwards, India had begun shipping doses to foreign countries as part of its much-vaunted “vaccine diplomacy”.

Narendra Modi, prime minister, and his Bharatiya Janata Party have been accused of prioritising domestic politics over public health by holding mass political rallies with thousands of people and allowing the Kumbh Mela, a vast religious festival attended by millions, to take place during the second wave.

With a new variant suspected of stoking the surge, experts fear that India is on the same trajectory as Brazil, where a more contagious strain of the virus has hammered the country’s healthcare system and economy. “Health systems weren’t better prepared for it this time around. Many people in the administration across the country did not expect that there would be a ‘this time around,” said K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, a charity. “It was somehow presumed that we had passed the pandemic.”

Several Indian states have been raising the alarm over oxygen shortage, a basic necessity, which left unfulfilled could lead to significantly more deaths. The chief ministers of Delhi and Maharashtra have asked the central government to ramp up the supply. Deaths have been reported from states like Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh because patients could allegedly not be oxygenated on time.

Indian social media is currently flooded with such tragic appeals for oxygen support, ICU beds, and beds with ventilators. With a stark shortage of hospital beds across the country, Covid-19 patients have been advised to try and find cylinders and machines to oxygenate themselves at home.

By Karishma Gwalani

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