Live Coronavirus, last minute Coronavirus India, under threat of mutant wave
“This time, the infection is spreading so fast that people don’t have time to get medicine. A lot of people are dying before we can get a test report.” Dr. SK Pandey is witnessing on the front lines how the second wave of coronavirus is devouring the second most populous country in the world. In the last 24 hours, 2,023 people have died in India. It’s the highest count in such a short time.
The infections have also broken a new daily record: 295,041. Alarming figures to which must be added the health collapse, with thousands of hospitals that do not even have the necessary oxygen supplies or beds available. In summary: Indian hospitals are overflowing. Fans are missing and intensive care units are on edge. And the dead pile up in morgues and crematoriums.
Dr. SK Pandey works at the Ram Manohar Lohia Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow, capital of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India with 240 million inhabitants and one of the worst affected by this second wave. One in six Indians lives in Uttar Pradesh, which has already reported a total of 851,620 cases. In the last hours, videos are circulating on social networks of infected people slumped at the doors of hospitals because inside there are no beds or doctors to take care of them.
Other stories also come, reported by the local media, such as that of Rajeshwari Devi, a 58-year-old woman who died a couple of days ago after being 48 hours waiting to receive a tank of oxygen that never arrived. The coronavirus caused her a chronic pneumonia that took her away in the emergency room of a hospital in Robertsganj, in the north of the country.
Reserves to the limit
In New Delhi, they have the same problems with the oxygen tanks. The local government asked for help on social media: “We are running out of oxygen”. They reported that hospitals only had enough oxygen to last another eight to 24 hours, while some private ones had enough for only four to five hours.
In the capital, some scenes that have not been seen since last summer, when there was the last strong spike in infections, are being repeated: corpses are piling up in the morgue at Lok Nayak Hospital. At the Nigambodh Ghat crematorium they have also started to build traditional funeral pyres because their furnaces cannot keep up with the tripling rate of work.
New Delhi on Monday imposed a total shutdown until April 26. It is the first lockdown since the first quarantine nationwide on March 24, 2020. Other regions, such as the state of Maharashtra, which includes the financial capital Mumbai, has tightened the restrictions it announced last week: closing shopping malls, cinemas, bars, restaurants and places of worship. Also, on weekends, the state’s 125 million people will be left homebound unless they are going to buy food or medicine.
“This wave has surprised us with our pants down”A Velumani, president and managing director of Thyrocare, one of the country’s largest coronavirus testing labs, tells the Associated Press, acknowledging that labs were unprepared for the sharp increase in demand for testing.
Closing as a last resort
The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra modi, has asked state governments to raise closure as a last resort. Last year’s massive lockdown, the largest yet, locking 1.3 billion people at home, slows the spread of the coronavirus, but sank millions of street workers who live off what they sell on the streets.
“The situation was manageable until a few weeks ago. The second wave of infections has come like a storm,” Modi said yesterday in a televised speech in which he urged citizens to stay home and not panic.
Apparently, in early February India seemed to have the virus under control. Daily cases did not exceed 10,000. A figure considered low for a country with so many millions of inhabitants and that celebrated massive Hindu festivals without any restrictions, such as the Kumbh Mela in the city of Haridwar, which was attended by 25 million people.
Furthermore, just before the arrival of the second wave, an electoral cycle had begun to elect the governments of five regions, with mass meetings and 190 million people attending polling stations. The weeks went by and the figures multiplied until they reached the middle of March with a streak exceeding 100,000 daily infections. Last week, India overtook Brazil as the second most contagious country, behind only the United States. It accumulates 15,616,130 positive cases, while the total number of deaths stands at 182,553.
The “mutant” variant
To this new wave we must add a strange variant, called a “double mutant”, which many blame for the increase in mortality rates. According to the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), the danger is that vaccines are designed to create antibodies that specifically target the spike protein of the virus. The concern about this variant is that if a mutation changes the shape of the spike protein, antibodies may not be able to neutralize the virus effectively.
The solution to stop the second wave is through a “vaccination festival”, as Prime Minister Modi called it, to immunize anyone over the age of 18 as of May 1. There are no age restrictions anymore. The purpose is to vaccinate 900 million eligible people as soon as possible. In the three months that have passed since the vaccination campaign began, they have already put more than 100 million doses. Although health authorities said last week that they also had supply problems, with fewer than 27 million doses left.
The Government has asked Indian manufacturers to export fewer vaccines. This directly affects COVAX, the platform created by the World Health Organization (WHO) to guarantee equitable access to vaccines in the poorest countries. India, which manufactures the AstraZeneca vaccine and a homegrown vaccine called Covaxin in the city of Pune, is the largest source of COVAX sera. It continues to send doses abroad, but much less than those agreed before the arrival of the second wave. The increase in cases in India has caused a rebound that, as he said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, the gap between rich and poor countries in vaccine deployment is widening.
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