Over the past few weeks, India has reached its peak in Covid-19 cases. Over 18 million cases have been reported since the beginning of the pandemic, although according to CNN the number of unreported cases could increase the actual number to half a billion cases. Multiple issues like underreporting, mistakes by the government and low vaccine distribution have allowed cases to rise.
Underreporting of Covid-19 cases has been a large drawback to overcoming the second, more deadly wave in India. Many new cases and deaths have gone unreported. Since some people are asymptomatic there is a lack of testing which opens up more opportunities for an outbreak to occur. Many people are also unable to be transported to a hospital, as many of them are overflowing with patients.
After months of tighter restrictions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared in January that India had overcome the worst of the pandemic, and had handled it better than many other countries. Despite the announcement that allowed civilians to loosen up with restrictions, India’s cases kept climbing. Mask wearing declined with many people taking the virus lightly due to the lack of communication about how serious the virus actually was from the government.
Even though the Indian government had stated they had gotten over the worst of the virus, there have been very few steps to recovery. India has vaccinated under 2% of the 1.3 billion people living in the country as of April 28, according to Sumit Ganguly of The Washington Post. Over the past few months, there has been a shortage of vaccine supply, which has halted any hopes of reducing the number of future cases.
Leading up to the second wave, Ganguly reported Modi’s 21-day shutdown to slow the spread of the virus, but he returned to a “business as usual governance,” instead of using that time to prepare for a potential second wave.
The second wave in India has been the deadliest since the start of the pandemic with cases rising to the point where the hospitals are overflowing. Places like banquet halls, trains and sports stadiums have been turned into temporary hospitals. The lack of supplies cannot catch up to the number of cases that have been increasing. According to an account in The New Yorker, “there are two patients per bed in the big hospitals in New Delhi, and that’s if you can get into the hospital in the first place. There are literally lines of ambulances that are fifty or a hundred long. The crematoria are full. And this isn’t just in New Delhi or Mumbai—it is in many parts of the country, including in places like Uttar Pradesh, which did not really have a big covid issue last year. Things are really bad right now.”
Even if those who are infected manage to get a hospital bed, it is unlikely for them to be treated properly with the supplies they need. There is simply not enough oxygen to treat every patient, which leads to inadequate attention and treatment of patients. The New York Times reported that some in Delhi have paid 10 times the normal price for oxygen and that some tanks are even being stolen from hospitals. A Delhi court described the growing black market as ‘vultures.’
India’s current situation has already taken a huge toll and according to Quartz India, India’s second wave is not going to peak until June, a date projected based on trends from large countries like the U.S. and Brazil.
Ramanan Laxminarayan, the director of the Center of Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy in New Delhi, described the ongoing crisis well when he told CNN, "I don't think any family has been spared a Covid death. There's a missing person in every family that I can think of."