While the number of vaccinated citizens in the U.S. has continued to increase, India is in the midst of a raging war against a second wave of COVID. This new surge has shown threats of a new deadly variant and its leaders’ poor response to dealing with the situation.
On April 23 India reported 332,730 new cases, the world record for the daily count of victims. India’s second wave began in mid-March this year and has caused a severe shortage in supplies including hospital beds, medicine, oxygen and ventilators. Its total now stands at over 16 million cases, second only to the U.S. In a Time article which detailed the horrors India has been facing, Rana Ayyub wrote, “Every day, more than 2,000 people in India are dying with COVID-19, according to official numbers—and experts believe that number is a dramatic underestimate.” Furthermore, doctors and healthcare workers have been overwhelmed by the increasing number of people needing medical care, while hospitals have been turning away patients as a result of the lack of space.
Just six weeks ago, Indian health minister Harsh Vardhan claimed that his country was in the “endgame” of the pandemic.
This was shown earlier in the year as in an article published by the National Geographic, author Nilanjana Bhowmick wrote, “India had increased its oxygen exports to other countries by a whopping 734 percent in January 2021. It also exported around 193 million doses of vaccines.”
Following this, Indian officials stated that the second wave had taken everyone by surprise. As a result, citizens are now being turned away from receiving vaccines due to a shortage in supplies. Additionally, COVID-19 patients are dying from a lack of oxygen.
Although this new surge was first attributed to the B.1.1.7 variant in the first found in the U.K., it has been possible that it might also be a result of a homegrown variant, B.1.617., with two mutations. This has been troubling, as vaccines have typically been less effective in these new strains of the virus. Bhowmick later wrote in his article that the Hyderabad-based Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology found the B.1.617 only accounted for 10 percent of cases countrywide.
Beyond its healthcare system, the country’s politicians have also been criticized for their response in dealing with the current situation. Although Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, was quick to issue a nationwide lockdown a year ago, as an article in The Economist put, “…through complacency and distraction, Mr Modi has allowed things to spiral out of control.”
Returning the state of the country to how it was before, increasing cases have once again caused disasters throughout the country. Ayyub later criticized Modi for letting politics get in the way, “Since January, Modi has organized mass political rallies in various states and has allowed religious events like the Kumbh Mela to go ahead, while his party continued with its dog-whistle campaigns against Indian minorities.”
It was only on the 22nd after facing severe criticism that Modi announced he would be cancelling his rallies in West Bengal to hold meetings on the state of the pandemic. Many Indians have called out the prime minister on his lack of accountability, stating that more will need to be done for the people of India.
As the situation continues to grow worse, Indian citizens along with healthcare workers and political figures will have to make a combined effort to combat the ramifications of the deadly second wave.