India Now Facing Destructive Second Wave

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By: Maler Suresh 

Source: bbc.com

India is currently experiencing a second wave of the coronavirus, with 16 million confirmed cases, they have second most cases in the world, next to the U.S. Experts point to more relaxed protocols and the new variant as explanations for this surge in cases that has left India’s overwrought healthcare system scrambling to keep up.

The biggest problem comes from hospital’s lack of resources to handle the magnitude of cases they are now experiencing. Specifically, an oxygen shortage has families crowding outside hospitals in major cities, dying from lack of oxygen while waiting for a hospital bed. In India’s capital, New Delhi, multiple hospitals ran completely out of oxygen. The central government is taking a lot of criticism for their lack of communication and effective action regarding the crisis. A petition by the owner of multiple major Delhi hospitals even reached the highest Delhi court, judges calling the situation “ridiculous” and demanding to know “what the centre is doing with regard to oxygen supply across India.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting about mitigating the crisis in which he asked officials to find a way to produce more oxygen and told states to come down “heavily” on anyone hoarding supplies. However, the Prime Minister’s election rallies in the state of West Bengal, which has been holding elections in phases, continued as planned.

Unlike the national shutdown that occurred during India’s first wave, the central government is leaving COVID-19 restrictions to be decided region by region. New Delhi recently announced a weeklong shutdown barring essential and government services. The worst affected state in India, Maharashtra, added extra restrictions to its partial shutdown, and the high court in Uttar Pradesh, another highly affected region, ordered a lockdown in 5 districts that was put on hold after the government appealed against the lockdown in the Supreme Court. 

Vaccination drives are proceeding slowly across the country, with more than 130 million doses distributed to the country’s population of more than a billion people. While only health workers, frontline staff, those above the age of 45, and anyone with pre-existing conditions are currently eligible for the vaccine, those 18 and older will be eligible beginning May 1st. However, a lack of supplies may impact India’s Covax program, further slowing vaccine distribution. 

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