India is in the grips of a deadly second wave of Coronavirus. Today, the country reported a record 362,757 new infections; hospitals are overwhelmed, oxygen supplies are running thin and medical staff are stretched.
India's current outbreak is more than just a public health crisis, it is humanitarian. The packed cities, lined with the homeless and the impoverished, lack the capacity to fully lockdown; the country has shipped it's vaccines off to richer countries, leaving its population unprotected; and the virus has now doubled in mutation, becoming more transmissible and deadly.
But, why is this happening in India specifically?
The cases were precariously high at the start of the month as the country's vaccination program spluttered into gear. And then, on the 12th of April, millions travelled to celebrate the Maha Kumbh Mela. This month-long religious festival occurs every twelve years and citizens travelled across India to celebrate. This was confounded by their Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, encouraging festival celebrations and holding political rallies. Cases, hospitalisations and deaths have since exploded across the country - in part due to these 'super-spreader' events.
The whole episode played out like Britain at Christmas time (on a larger scale): A mismanaged national occasion that has spiralled out of control. It is no doubt India's darkest chapter of their Covid struggle and it looks set to get darker still.
Furthermore, now that a wave has established itself, Covid is feasting upon the country's socioeconomic climate. The most stark example of this are the reports that wealthier families are calling in favours to access oxygen or hospital beds, whereas poorer citizen -exposed to the virus due to densely populated streets- need to wait for treatment. This represents a dire microcosm of India's inequality. Everyone is desperate, but - with capacity and oxygen dwindling - the poorest suffer more due to their lack of resource.
Dr Fauci, the US's top disease expert, is livid - the iconic scientist believes that the world had 'failed' India, because richer countries have to provide support to prevent these outbreaks. He is right. The international community must pull together to donate oxygen, ventilators, treatments and vaccines before India's crisis crashes into the abyss.
28 Apr 2021