Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned that the coronavirus resurgence in the country was like being “hit by a storm” as new infections surpassed 250,000 a day, with hospitals at risk of being overwhelmed and cremations in some areas carried out 24 hours.
His government faces mounting criticism for its handling of the crisis, as oxygen, drugs, tests and hospital beds remain critically scarce in the worst-hit areas. Modi, however, said that despite the enormous scale of the health crisis, lockdowns should be seen as a last resort.
New concerns about the second wave of Covid-19 came when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson canceled a planned trip earlier this week and India was added to the UK’s travel ‘red list’ amidst the concern about a new variant that has emerged in the UK. country.
In a national speech on Tuesday, Modi tried to reassure Indians with promises of vaccines for everyone over 19 and praise for the country’s pharmaceutical industry.
“The country is waging a great battle against Covid-19 today. The situation had improved for a while, but the second Covid-19 wave came like a storm, ”Modi said.
“I express my deepest condolences to all those who have lost loved ones due to Covid-19. As a member of your family, I am with you in this hour of sadness. The battle is long and difficult, but we have to overcome it together with our dedication and courage.
Modi’s speech came just hours after meeting with vaccine manufacturers via video conference and asking them to increase production.
However, it was unclear how credible that effort could be following last week’s call from India’s largest vaccine maker, the Serum Institute of India, for US President Joe Biden to “lift the embargo on raw material exports “to allow more vaccine production.
His speech followed growing anger at the Indian prime minister, who has been criticized for continuing to address tens of thousands of people at state election rallies and for allowing Hindu devotees to congregate for a festival, with hashtags such as #ResignModi and #SuperSpreaderModi on Twitter.
India’s experience with the coronavirus appeared to offset the trend in other countries, with cases peaking at more than 100,000 per day last year before dropping to the almost negligible 10,000 per day in the first months of this year in one country. 1.3 billion people.
However, cases began to rebound in recent weeks, and India was apparently unprepared for a second wave on the scale that has emerged.
When the capital New Delhi rushed to convert schools into hospitals, abandoned field hospitals in the worst-hit cities reopened.
A key problem has been oxygen shortages in many places with India trying to import oxygen while also diverting oxygen supply from industry to hospitals.
The Sanjay Gandhi hospital, run by the New Delhi government, is increasing its beds for Covid-19 patients from 46 to 160. But R. Meneka, the official coordinating the response to Covid-19 at the hospital, said no he was unsure whether the facility had the capacity to provide oxygen to so many beds.
The government-run hospital in Burari, an industrial center on the outskirts of the capital, only had oxygen for two days on Monday and found that most of the providers in the city had been exhausted, said Ramesh Verma, who is coordinating the response. Covid-19 there.
“Every minute, we continue to receive hundreds of calls asking for beds,” he said.
Shahid Malik, who works at a small oxygen supplier, said the demand for medical oxygen had increased tenfold. Your phone has been ringing continuously for two days.
As of Monday, the store still had oxygen but no cylinders. He responded to each call with the same message: “If you have your own bottle, come get the oxygen. If you don’t, we can’t help you. “
Among those who criticized the response was A Velumani, president and managing director of Thyrocare, one of India’s largest private testing laboratories, who said current demand was three times higher than last year, leaving the country without seeing the prevalence.
The labs were unprepared for the sharp increase in demand for testing that came with the current surge, Velumani said, and everyone was “caught with their pants down.”
India’s vaccination campaign is also struggling with several states reporting shortages, although the federal government has claimed there are sufficient stocks.
On Monday, he said he would soon expand vaccines to include all adults in the country, about 900 million people. But with vaccine shortages globally, it is unclear when Indian vaccine manufacturers will have the capacity to meet these goals.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism