With the Covid cases in India surging to new highs as a result of the second wave in Mid march, the total Covid cases have crossed the 15 Million mark, and the daily rise in cases is amounting to lakhs every day.
Experts confirm that India is possibly the worst-hit nation right now, owing to the misreporting and hidden COVID-19 cases and deaths since the beginning of the outbreak.
Ramanan Laminarayan, the director of the U.S.-based Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy, told TIME magazine, “For every 30 infections, [the Indian authorities are] pretty much only picking up one as a case. I would still apply the 30-fold undercount even now.”
This surge came as a surprise and several were unprepared as in the start of 2021 various experts were mystified by the low COVID-19 cases, with fewer hospitalizations and mortality
“We were all tempted with a premature celebration of the end of the pandemic in India, throwing caution to the wind,” Mukherjee wrote in an op-ed on April 16. “Scientists including myself were busy coming up with several hypotheses regarding why the virus curve turned its corner, the miraculous decline in India, deciphering a major public health mystery.”
Bhramar Mukherjee, the biostatistics chair at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, summed up the reason for the severe second surge in a tweet: “Hubris, complacence, negligence, nonchalance, data denial, slow vaccination and lack of clear and cogent strategy.”
Health Systems Crumbling Due To Rising COVID Cases
The past few days have witnessed a worrisome state of affairs with Indians flooding social media for resources about hospital beds, ventilators, and life-saving drugs. India is also reporting acute shortages of drugs like Remdesivir and Tocilizumab, which were declared for emergency use during the pandemic. Families are now looking for drugs in the black market.
"The situation is very critical, worrying. Oxygen is in short supply," said chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, adding that almost one in four tests for the virus were giving a positive result.
"Beds equipped with oxygen supplies, and for critical care, are filling fast," he added.
Several individuals, unfortunately, passed away while waiting in ambulances or long queues outside the hospital. A video clip showed a woman from Jharkhand seen to be wailing next to her COVID-19 positive father, who died outside the hospital while waiting for medical help. “We cried for half an hour looking for a doctor, but no doctor came,” she said on camera.
With a lack of resources, reports show that COVID-19 patients are sharing beds to meet the demand. Patients were given mineral water as a substitute for oxygen in a case. The shortage of hearse vans in hospitals compelled the staff to send the dead patients in trucks.
However, despite such an alarming state Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that there will be no lockdown. “We have resources and experience now. We contained the pandemic earlier. We can do this again with test, track, treat and COVID-appropriate behavior,” he told the media.
Graveyards Are Overflowing With Bodies
With the cases going up high, the death count has also shot up with several cities reporting saturated cemeteries. In Bhopal, some cremation grounds were reporting up to 40 bodies a day, which is much higher than what authorities state
Sources from the North Delhi Municipal Corporation(NDMC) said that a total of 219 confirmed and nine suspected deaths due to COVID-19 have been reported at cremation grounds and burial places under its jurisdiction in April so far.
Suman Gupta, the general secretary of Badi Panchayat Vaishya Beese Agarwal organization that manages Nigambodh Ghat in Delhi said the number of cremations had risen sharply in the past few days. He said, "Usually, around 50-60 cremations are performed here daily. The number has gone up to over 80 now".
He further said: "The cremations of over 100 COVID-19 victims were performed in the last five days. On Tuesday(13th April), 33 bodies were cremated".
On April 15, an Indian reporter witnessed bodies streaming in every 10 seconds in Lucknow, even as the state health bulletin reported only 26 deaths that day.
“These are not ordinary numbers,” a cremation ground employee told a reporter from the Print. With the news spreading like wildfire, as a way to hide the COVID-19 number of deaths, the state authorities installed tin sheets to block the view of one of the cemeteries.
Indian States Face COVID Vaccine Shortages
India’s vaccination drive from Feb 16th has fully vaccinated around a total of 14.9 million people—which is 1.1 percent of the population. However, in the previous week, about 100 vaccination centers shut down in Mumbai as vaccine doses were over.
Several Indian states have reported vaccine shortages and demand for restocking.
However, the Modi government's Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told the media, “There is no shortage of vaccines and the government of India gives vaccines to every state.” In a tweet, Vardhan also called the news on the shortage “fear-mongering.” “Where does the question of shortages arise? We're continuously monitoring & enhancing supply,” he tweeted.
Religion And Politics Causing A High Breach Of COVID Norms
While the rising cases demand increasing social distancing, the Hindu religious gathering of Kumbh Mela which has been approved by the state government continues to house lakhs of people. This has resulted in the massive spreading of the virus. Haridwar's chief medical officer, Dr. SK Jha, said more than 1,600 cases had been confirmed among devotees between 10 and 14 April. However, the numbers could be higher as many could be the carriers of the disease across the country.
Despite the formation of clusters, the festival officials refused to cut short the festival, and it will continue to go on till the end of this month. One BJP leader openly told the media that he attended the festival and tested positive on April 13.
A large crowd in a southern Indian district was seen celebrating Ugadi, the local new year festival which involved people throwing cow dung cakes at each other as part of the tradition.
Furthermore, with elections kicking in political parties have prioritized huge rallies and gatherings of attendees over following COVID-19 norms and social distancing. Reuters reported, “In recent weeks, criticism has mounted over how the federal government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has handled the health crisis, as religious festivals and election rallies continue despite reports of shortages of hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, and vaccination doses.”
India Today on talking about the mixed signals from the government said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speeches emphasized keeping the vigil against the Covid-19 pandemic. But in states, even his party (BJP) leaders and workers did not care to follow the protocol in organizing political rallies for elections in Bihar last year, and the ongoing assembly polls in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry.”
Thus, with the queues outside polling booths and gatherings at the election rallies breaching COVID protocols, the public and the grassroots-level functionaries of the government are sent a confusing message with weakens the procedures to curb the spread.