Official data, media reports and anecdotal evidence show that India is heading towards a full blown national health care crisis. India is setting a daily record of new coronavirus infections for the last several weeks and yesterday it stood at 1,84,372, pushing the total tally of cases to 1,38,73,825 and active cases at over 1.3 million.
These statistics are alarming but do not reflect the enormity of the crisis, nor do they indicate the scale of suffering of people.
Long queues of ambulances outside public hospitals, shortages of hospital beds, oxygen and medicines and long waiting time for funeral at crematoriums and graveyards are indicative of the tremendous stress this pandemic is causing on the society and health care machinery.
Due to the sheer number of people acquiring infection and becoming sick, denial of health care is becoming routine even in big cities of Mumbai, Pune, Surat, New Delhi and others.
It is increasingly becoming clear that a big crisis is on the horizon, what no one can say is how to avert it. As cases continue to grow daily at the rate of over five per cent, today’s number may possibly double in the next 20 days, compounding a crisis that may simply go out of control
Uddhav Thackeray, Chief Minister of Maharashtra, the worst affected state, appeared on TV on Tuesday and imposed curfew in India’s financial capital Mumbai and other cities, pleading with army to manage supply of oxygen and medicines.
Elsewhere, in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state with a population of over 205 million, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has tested positive, along with his top bureaucrats and cabinet colleagues.
In Lucknow, diagnostic facilities have collapsed under the volume of tests and many pathologies have suspended operations. In Gujarat, ICU beds and ventilators are fast running out and patients have to wait in ambulances for hours.
Complacency and recklessness
There is a growing consensus among epidemiologists that complacency and recklessness by both government and people are responsible for this ferocious second wave. On Tuesday, a day when over 160,000 new cases were reported, authorities allowed over four million people to gather in Haridwar, a small town on the bank of Ganges for a religious festival.
In the eastern and southern part of the country, tens of thousands have been attending large election rallies of Narendra Modi.
It is increasingly becoming clear that a big crisis is on the horizon, what no one can say is how to avert it. As cases continue to grow daily at the rate of over five per cent, today’s number may possibly double in the next 20 days, compounding a crisis that may simply go out of control.
Tough decisions are immediately required to halt the outbreak and India must scale up vaccination to include all age groups.