India Devastated By Second Wave Of Coronavirus: “We Are Running Out Of Oxygen”
“This time, the infection is spreading so fast that people don’t have time to get medicine. A lot of people are dying before we can get a test report.” Dr. SK Pandey is witnessing in the front line how the second wave of coronavirus is devouring the second most populous country in the world. In the last 24 hours, 2,023 people have died in India . It’s the highest count in such a short time.
Infections have also broken a new daily record: 295,041. Alarming figures to which must be added the health collapse, with thousands of hospitals not even having the necessary oxygen supplies or beds available. In short: Indian hospitals are overwhelmed . Ventilators are missing and intensive care units are on edge. And the dead pile up in morgues and crematoriums.
Dr. SK Pandey works at the Ram Manohar Lohia Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow, capital of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India with 240 million inhabitants and one of the most affected by this second wave. One in six Indians lives in Uttar Pradesh, which has already reported a total of 851,620 cases. In the last hours, videos have been circulating on social networks of infected people collapsed at the doors of hospitals because inside there are no beds or doctors to treat them.
Other stories also come, reported by local media, such as that of Rajeshwari Devi, a 58-year-old woman who died a couple of days ago after waiting 48 hours to receive an oxygen tank that never arrived . The coronavirus caused her a chronic pneumonia that took her ahead in the emergency room of a hospital in Robertsganj, in the north of the country.
In New Delhi, they have the same problems with the oxygen tanks. The local government asked for help on social networks: “We are running out of oxygen . “ They reported that hospitals only had enough oxygen to last another eight to 24 hours, while some private ones had enough for only four to five hours.
In the capital, some scenes that have not been seen since last summer, when there was the last strong spike in infections, are being repeated: the bodies are piling up in the Lok Nayak hospital morgue. At the Nigambodh Ghat crematorium they have also started to build traditional funeral pyres because their kilns cannot keep up with the tripling rate of work.
New Delhi on Monday imposed a total shutdown until April 26. It is the first lockdown since the first quarantine nationwide on March 24, 2020. Other regions, such as the state of Maharashtra, which includes the financial capital, Mumbai, has tightened the restrictions it already announced last week: closure of centers commercials, cinemas, bars, restaurants and places of worship. Additionally, on weekends, the state’s 125 million residents will be left homebound unless they are going to buy food or medicine.
“This wave has surprised us with our pants down,” A Velumani, president and managing director of Thyrocare, one of the largest coronavirus testing laboratories in the country, tells the Associated Press, acknowledging that the laboratories were not prepared for the strong. increased demand for tests.
CLOSURE AS A LAST RESORT
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called on state governments to consider closure as a last resort. Last year’s massive lockdown, the largest yet, locking 1.3 billion people at home, slowed the spread of the coronavirus but sank millions of street workers who live off what they sell on the streets.
“The situation was manageable until a few weeks ago. The second wave of infections has come like a storm,” Modi said yesterday in a televised speech in which he urged citizens to stay home and not panic.
Apparently, in early February, India appeared to have the virus under control. Daily cases did not exceed 10,000. A figure considered low for a country with so many millions of inhabitants and that celebrated massive Hindu festivals without any restrictions , such as the Kumbh Mela in the city of Haridwar, which was attended by 25 million people.
Furthermore, just before the arrival of the second wave, an electoral cycle had begun to elect the governments of five regions, with mass rallies and 190 million people attending polling stations. The weeks passed and the figures multiplied until they reached mid-March with a streak exceeding 100,000 infections a day. Last week, India overtook Brazil as the second most contagious country, behind only the United States. It accumulates 15,616,130 positive cases, while the total number of deaths stands at 182,553.
To this new wave we must add a strange variant, called “double mutant”, which many blame for the increase in mortality rates. According to the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), the danger is that vaccines are designed to create antibodies that specifically target the spike protein of the virus. The concern about this variant is that if a mutation changes the shape of the spike protein, the antibodies may not be able to neutralize the virus effectively.
The solution to curb the second wave is through a “vaccination festival”, as Prime Minister Modi called it, to immunize anyone over 18 years of age as of May 1. There are no age restrictions anymore. The purpose is to vaccinate 900 million eligible people as soon as possible. In the three months that have passed since the vaccination campaign began, they have already put more than 100 million doses. Although health authorities said last week that they also had supply problems, with less than 27 million doses remaining.
The government has asked Indian manufacturers to export fewer vaccines. This directly affects COVAX, the platform created by the World Health Organization (WHO) to guarantee equitable access to vaccines in the poorest countries. India, which manufactures the AstraZeneca vaccine and a homegrown vaccine called Covaxin in the city of Pune, is the largest source of COVAX sera. It continues to send doses abroad, but much less than those agreed before the arrival of the second wave. The increase in cases in India has led to the rebound that, as said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus , director general of the WHO, the gap between rich and poor countries in the deployment of vaccines is widening.