A family member of a Covid-19 infected patient seen carrying an empty oxygen cylinder outside a store to have it refilled, amid the growing number of coronavirus cases.
Manish Rajput | SOPA Pictures | LightRocket | Getty Images
India’s daily new Covid-19 cases crossed 400,000 for the third time this month as the country struggles to contain a devastating second wave.
Health Ministry data released Friday showed there were 414,188 new cases in a 24-hour period, where at least 3,915 people died of the disease. But reports of overwhelmed crematoriums and cemeteries as well as a growing number of local newspaper obituaries suggest official figures underestimate the true death toll.
The total number of reported cases in this South Asian country currently stands at 21.49 million, while the death toll exceeds 234,000. In the past seven days alone, India has reported more than 2 , 7 million cases and more than 25,700 deaths, an average of at least 153 people dying every hour.
While the Indian government has so far resisted calls for another national lockdown, states have stepped up restrictions, including localized lockdowns and curfews. But health care experts fear the pandemic is now spreading to small towns and villages, where health infrastructure is not advanced enough to support an increase in cases.
The second wave began in February, but cases increased at an alarming rate from April. The World Health Organization said the sharp rise in infections could be in part due to multiple mutated versions of the virus circulating in the country, including the local variant B.1.617 and the variant B.1.1.7 which has been detected in the UK.
But Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has drawn criticism for allowing large crowds to gather for religious festivals and election rallies across the country earlier this year, and then leaving most of the blame for the fight against the epidemic to state governments. Indian hospitals are overwhelmed and face a shortage of beds, medical oxygen and drugs to treat patients with Covid-19.
The Indian Supreme Court has reportedly told the central government to start preparing for a predicted third wave of the epidemic and revamp its formula to distribute oxygen across the country. It comes a day after the Supreme Court gave the government 24 hours to formulate a plan to meet Delhi’s oxygen needs.
The court came after 12 Covid-19 patients, including a doctor, died last week at a New Delhi hospital after running out of medical oxygen for 80 minutes, according to the Associated Press.
K. VijayRaghavan, Senior Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, urged people on Twitter to maintain their social distancing and other behaviors appropriate to Covid to prevent the virus from spreading exponentially. But many cities that are seeing an increase in the number of cases are also very densely populated.
Earlier this week, he told a press briefing that a third wave was “inevitable, given the higher levels of the virus circulating. But it is not known at what timescale this phase three will occur. . Hopefully gradually, but we should prepare for new waves. “