Two things took place in India in the month of April that should not have happened given that the world was in the midst of a pandemic. On the 1st of April, the government permitted lakhs of devotees of Hinduism to gather at the river Ganga in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, for a dip as part of the Kumbh mela celebrations, a festival held once every 12 years. Second, in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, where both states were going in for polls, election rallies were held, involving thousands. Both events had many people who wore no masks, failed to maintain social distancing, followed none of the protocols advised in a pandemic of this nature, and have acted as super spreaders.
It was therefore only to be expected that India’s second wave of COVID virus cases would be more like a tsunami rather than a wave. What started as a trickle by the end of March is a flood by the middle of April. The country is dealing with lakhs of fresh, new cases everyday. With a population of 1.3 billion, cases in the country have crossed the 28 lakh mark, according to the Union Health Ministry. In the last few days, India’s count of total Covid-19 cases has gone from 16 million to 17 million. The second wave seems more virulent albeit less deadly. Many argue that the second wave was coming anyway but the two events mentioned above have worsened the situation.
As this goes into print, there is havoc in the country as it struggles to provide enough oxygen, hospital beds, and drugs for the patients. The second wave has hit the country much harder than anticipated. India’s healthcare sector has collapsed and the government’s handling of the situation has highlighted the many gaps and inefficiencies. Hospitals in Delhi and Mumbai, the two worst affected cities, and other cities such as Bengaluru, Noida, Ahmedabad, Pune, Lucknow and Indore have run out of hospital beds. Sick patients at home are struggling to find treatment for the disease. The lack of oxygen cylinders and essential medicines are forcing the public to turn to the black market. Hospitals are turning down sick patients that do not have a Covid positive test even if they are showing all symptoms. RT-PCR tests are taking 3 or more days to return from labs, making the situation critical for the patients. Crowds are gathering outside hospitals in major cities in urgency to fight for treatment. Fear across the country is rising due to the overwhelmed healthcare sector
Criticism has been heaped upon the Election Commission of India and the center’s handling of the crisis. The commission has been criticized for not following COVID protocols and lack of any exercise authority. The center should have stopped the Kumbh mela from taking place. The vaccination process has been very slow, although looking up at the moment with the help of the US. India has so far only vaccinated 30% of its population. The Biden-Harris dispensation has woken up after receiving criticism over silence from the public. The country has promised and is “determined” to help India in its time of need. At least 17 Indian states have decided to vaccinate their population free of cost for 18 and above.
India’s only hope is to speed up or accelerate the vaccination process. With the help of the US and potentially, the UK, the country should aim to vaccinate the entire population by the start of 2022. Until then, other measures have been taken to control the virus from spreading. State governments have started implementing full lockdown in hope of decreasing the number of cases. States like Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, UP, and Uttarakhand have imposed lockdown and curfew measures. Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi chief minister, has said to provide e-passes for essential workers and services. The country has introduced strict protective measures and protocols in order to calm the situation.
While the country is going through a terrible period in time, every citizen needs to do his or her part in curbing the spread. Please continue to wear a mask, regularly wash your hands, avoid public gatherings and crowded places, and practice social distancing. In this time of need, we must spread awareness through social media and reach out to loved ones for emotional support. India is facing a dangerous second wave, more of its making than anything else and one that could have been mitigated if not fully avoided.
Ira Ahuja is the managing editor of The Woodstocker.
Featured image from BBC.
Edited by Bishalakshmi Bagchi.