It is hard to comprehend the sheer horror of the current C-19 crisis in India. This report from the New York Times makes harrowing reading:
In India, people are dying while waiting to see doctors as the second wave of the coronavirus rapidly evolves into a devastating crisis, with mounting evidence that the actual death toll is far higher than officially reported. https://t.co/aWkyHU3qyF
— The New York Times (@nytimes) April 24, 2021
Each day, the government reports more than 300,000 new infections, a world record, and India is now seeing more new infections than any other country by far, almost half of all new cases in a global surge.
But experts say those numbers, however staggering, represent just a fraction of the real reach of the virus’s spread, which has thrown this country into emergency mode. Millions of people refuse to even step outside — their fear of catching the virus is that extreme. Accounts from around the country tell of the sick being left to gasp for air as they wait at chaotic hospitals that are running out of lifesaving oxygen.
The sudden surge in recent weeks, with an insidious newer variant possibly playing a role, is casting increasing doubt on India’s official Covid-19 death toll of nearly 200,000, with more than 2,000 people dying every day.
Interviews from cremation grounds across the country, where the fires never stop, portray an extensive pattern of deaths far exceeding the official figures. Nervous politicians and hospital administrators may be undercounting or overlooking large numbers of dead, analysts say. And grieving families may be hiding Covid connections as well, out of shame, adding to the confusion in this enormous nation of 1.4 billion.
“It’s a complete massacre of data,” said Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan who has been following India closely. “From all the modeling we’ve done, we believe the true number of deaths is two to five times what is being reported.”
Over 13 days in mid-April, Bhopal officials reported 41 deaths related to Covid-19. But a survey by The New York Times of the city’s main Covid-19 cremation and burial grounds, where bodies were being handled under strict protocols, revealed a total of more than 1,000 deaths during the same period.
“Many deaths are not getting recorded and they are increasing every day,” said Dr. G.C. Gautam, a cardiologist based in Bhopal. He said that officials were doing this because “they don’t want to create panic.”
In Surat, an industrial city in Gujarat, the grills used to burn bodies have been operating so relentlessly that the iron on some has actually melted. On April 14, Covid-19 crematories in Surat and another district, Gandhi Nagar, told The Times that they cremated 124 people, on a day when the authorities said 73 had died of Covid-19 in the entire state.
Several factors seem to be causing the current surge. There are elections in India and many parties have been holding mass rallies of hundreds of thousands of supporters, the ruling party has been very keen to downplay the current problems. There are also several religious festivals going on that attract millions of devotees. Also, their vaccination program has also only reached about 10% of the population.
The eventual Indian death toll could be 3 – 5 million or higher, which is on a scale equivalent to almost the entire population of Ireland being wiped out – a terrifying thought.
“The frontline, the emergency room at a covid hospital, under the weight of an unfolding disaster”. @yogital, Fred Scott & Sanjay Ganguly ground report from #Delhi. WARNING this is very distressing pic.twitter.com/sCDxRwxx8L
— Nicola Careem (@NicolaCareem) April 23, 2021
I have been very complacent about the virus lately. I was putting off getting the vaccine until I could get the Pfizer one, but watching the scenes from India I am happy to take my chances with the Oxford one. By the way, the simplest place to get your vaccine is probably your local chemist.
Yesterday I spent a lovely afternoon in the sunshine in Lady Dixon Park. We do like to moan about this place but for now, I am filled with an incredible sense of gratitude that I am here in a very privileged situation compared to other people in the world. A sobering thought for us all this beautiful Sunday morning.
I help keep the good ship Slugger afloat by managing the business and techy stuff.