COVID-19 infections and deaths are increasing at alarming speeds in India, with no end to the crisis and a top expert warning that the weeks ahead in the country of around 1.4 billion people will be “terrible”.
The official count of coronovirus cases in India crossed 20 million on Tuesday, nearly doubling in the past three months, while officially deaths have exceeded 220,000. Staggering as those numbers, it is believed that the true figures are far higher, a clear reflection of the troubles in the health care system.
Scenes of people dying outside heavy hospitals have been seen in the country and funeral pyres illuminate the night sky.
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The infection in India has been on the rise since February when more infectious variants of the virus were blamed as well as government rulings to allow the gathering of huge crowds for Hindu religious festivals and political rallies ahead of state elections.
India’s top health officer, Rajesh Bhushan, last month refused to speculate on why officials were not well prepared. But the cost is clear: people are dying due to lack of bottled oxygen and hospital beds or because they could not obtain a COVID-19 test.
The official average of newly confirmed cases per day in India has increased from 65,000 to 370,000 on 1 April, and deaths per day have officially increased from 300 to 3,000.
On Tuesday, the Health Ministry recorded 357,229 new cases and 3,449 deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
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Dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health in America, Drs. Ashish Jha said that he is worried that Indian policymakers believe that the situation will improve in the next few days.
“I’m … trying to say to them, ‘If everything goes very well, things will be terrible for the next several weeks. And it can be very long,'” he said.
Jha said there is a need to focus on “classic” public health measures: targeted shutdowns, over-testing, universal mask-wearing and refraining from various ceremonies.
“That’s what is going to break this boom,” he said.
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Death and infection data are considered unreliable because the test is patchy and has incomplete reporting. For example, government guidelines ask Indian states to include suspected COVID-19 cases when recording outbreaks, but many do not.
The US, with one-fourth of India’s population, has recorded more than 2 1/2 deaths per 580,000 people.
In the Municipal Corporation records for this past Sunday, 1,680 dead in the Indian capital were treated according to the procedures for handing over the bodies of those infected with COVID-19. But in the same 24-hour period, only 407 people died in the official toll from New Delhi.
The New Delhi High Court announced that it would start punishing government officials if the allocated oxygen was not supplied to hospitals. “That’s enough,” it said.
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The deaths reflect the fragility of India’s health system. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party has criticized the lack of health care.
But all this was another reason for the authorities to use several months when cases in India were refused to shore up the system, Dr. of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research. Said Vinita Bal.
“Only a patchwork reform has been possible,” she said. But the country did not do so.
Now officers are making up for lost time. Beds are being added to hospitals, more tests are being done, oxygen is being sent from one corner of the country to another, and the manufacture of some drugs is being made effective against COVID-19.
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The states where elections were held are facing challenges and uncontrollable mob has spoiled the spread of the virus. The average number of daily infections in the state of West Bengal has increased from 32 to over 17,000 since the commencement of voting.
Convenor of the West Bengal Doctors’ Forum, Dr. Punyavrat Goen said, “This is a terrible crisis.”
Nguyen said the state also needed to accelerate vaccination. But the largest manufacturer of vaccines in the world is a shortage of shots – a result of lagging construction and a shortage of raw materials.
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Experts are also concerned that the prices being charged for shots will make it harder for the poor to vaccinate. On Monday, opposition parties urged the government to provide free immunization to all Indians.
In India, about 2.1 million people are vaccinated daily, or about 0.15%.
Virus specialist of the University of Cambridge, England, Dr. Ravi Gupta said, “It is not going to end very soon.” “And indeed … the soul of the country is at risk in a way.”
Associated Press writer Danika Kirka in London contributed to this report.
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