As the Covid-19 second wave continues its ferocious surge, many cities in the country smell an unprecedented stench of death. For the last several days, the crematoriums have been inundated with Covid corpses. So much so that, with people taking a morbid interest in the happenings at a prominent cremation ground in the country, the authorities had to put up an opaque fence all around it to keep away the public!
In its second arrival, Covid-19 is treating India like how it devastated Italy, Brazil and Spain with the first wave. The cremation grounds across India are witness to unseemly hurry, thwarted by pile-ups of Covid-dead. The dead are being burned well past dusk, right up to and beyond the midnight hour. Similarly, burial grounds can’t locate space to bury the Covid-dead.
India now has almost 16 million cases, the second-most globally, as it struggles to provide enough shots for its 1.3 billion people despite being home to the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer. Lower vigilance around masks and social distancing have contributed to the resurgence, with large religious festivals and elections allowed to take place with few precautions.
Those capable to secure high-quality treatment facilities in the early stages might survive Covid-19 without much trouble. For instance, Bollywood actors or prominent people from other fields who post their Covid-19 statuses on Twitter and Instagram, move into the best of hospitals without a hitch. Not the common man, even the middle-class Twitterati. Only the lucky few among these lesser mortals are able to find a hospital bed and oxygen to beat the Coronavirus.
The other day there were reports of a national award-winning cyclist dying after two private hospitals in Pune refused to admit him and the third, a government institution, admitted him only to allegedly neglect him. He could manage to highlight his story in the media because he was a known face, but the common man, would pass away, vanish into a black hole on the other side of the Invisible line, no questions asked!
India’s second wave is all the more lethal after the country saw fewer fatalities than other developing nations earlier in the pandemic, puzzling experts. Covid-related deaths have jumped to more than 184,000, still trailing the U.S., Brazil and Mexico, according to Johns Hopkins data.
The outbreak threatens to derail the Indian economy, which had just begun to recover after a nationwide lockdown last year pushed it into a historic recession. A new virus variant with a double mutation has also been detected locally, and concerns are growing that it’s driving the new wave.
Now, by putting the brakes on the over-the-counter availability of Remdesivir, reports have surfaced about a roaring black market for the drug all across the country. It is pointed out that in Karnal, Haryana, a vial of Remdesivir @MRP 250 is selling at Rs 15,000-Rs18000 in the black market. That said, the shortage of ventilators is the biggest killer in the realm. Nobody’s sure whether Remdesivir is effective or not, but hundreds are suffocating for want of ventilators in hospitals. In Ahmedabad, where cremation grounds are crowded with the Covid dead bodies, the standstill caravan of ambulances outside hospitals tells another story – of acute shortage of hospital beds and oxygen.
Unfortunately, it took countless dead to bring home the basic truth. The majority of the population is getting infected and nobody knows for sure whether it’s the old aged who are succumbing more, or are the young too collapsing lifeless in big numbers? All one gets to hear and see on the media are cold lifeless statistics. While the general public is advised to observe Covid-appropriate behaviour, politicians of all hues address Covid-inappropriate public rallies with the least care about consequences. Aren’t politicians supposed to lead by setting an example for fellow beings?
The relatively slow pace of vaccinations is undoubtedly adding to the problem. India has administered more than 132 million vaccine doses, according to data from the health ministry. That’s enough to cover only about 4.8% of its population, according to studies conducted and will take 12 years to immunise the entire population or 8 years to attain herd immunity.
Unlike SARS, Covid-19 is not going away anytime soon. The severity of the second wave is proof that the novel Coronavirus has quietly adapted to earth conditions and is mutating to spread across geographies. There have been also reports of several cases of death of people after taking both doses of the vaccines.
The point is, everything about the novel Coronavirus, including the vaccines, is sort of fluid at this point. Just for reminders, India reported its highest number of Covid cases for the eighth time in nine days as per the information available this week. This is when China reported record economic growth as it rebounded from the pandemic slump. Should we take some Covid lessons from our neighbour?
India’s total Covid cases had raced to 14,074,564 and Covid deaths to 174,308. It’s disheartening that a novel Coronavirus comes out of nowhere and takes away lives in hundreds or thousands! For millions of Indians who sat through the first Covid wave, the second Covid wave is unnerving. And, for all we know, there’s a massive vaccine crisis in the making even as helpless and hopeless people despair. Lives can still be saved, with Covid-appropriate behaviour, proper planning, strategy and execution but not without responsible cooperation from each individual in complying with the guidelines laid down to fight the pandemic.