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Breathless: A Ground Reality of the COVID-19 Crisis in India

With more than 3 lakh covid cases being reported for the third consecutive day on 24th April, the total number of active cases in India breached the 25 lakh mark on Saturday making it one of the worst-hit countries of the world. The country is grappling with the second wave of COVID-19 infection and witnessing a record number of deaths each day. The increasing gap between the recovered and active cases hints that we are heading towards a national health emergency. An acute shortage of medical oxygen and hospital beds has worsened the situation further. The repeated visuals of people begging for oxygen cylinders and doctors breaking down due to their inability to save lives have revealed our country’s acute breathlessness.

Credits: REUTERS

What’s the Reason Behind the Surge?

The surge in cases has been attributed to the failure of the people in observing COVID appropriate behaviour, such as wearing a mask, social distancing, pandemic fatigue and ineffective containment measures at the ground level. Also the surge in some states has been linked to the double mutant strain of the virus B.1.167 as over 60% samples from various cities in Maharashtra were found to be of this particular variant. There is another strain of the virus that is doing the rounds in Bengal; the indigenous triple mutation (B.1.168) or the ‘Bengal Strain’. These mutations may have the capability to render vaccines ineffective by escaping the antibodies, thus, further aggravating the crisis.

How the States are Faring?

Delhi and Maharashtra recorded the highest-ever number of deaths in a single day. Maharashtra, the worst-hit state, recorded 773 COVID-linked deaths in the last 24 hours while Delhi reported 348 deaths. States such as UP and Bengal reported their highest single day spike, with UP reporting 37,228 cases in the past 24 hours. This comes at a time when these states are preparing to hold local body and assembly elections respectively. From Lucknow to Bengaluru, the situation is nothing but deplorable as patients struggle to find oxygen cylinders and hospital beds.

Credits: The Indian Express

How has India Fared in Handling the Pandemic?

According to a recent report by The Quint India, the government’s handling of the COVID crisis is an example of “policy paralysis”, i.e., the failure to act or acting too late. More people are dying because of oxygen shortage and lack of hospital beds rather than the virus itself, thus exposing the various flaws in our healthcare system. The following points reveal where we have faltered:

  1. Nothing was done to scale up vaccine productions in India. Whether it was the Serum Institute of India or Bharat Biotech, all of them had to rely on internal funds or funds from international organisations to ramp up their productions with very little support coming from the government. It released a sum of Rs 4500 crores from the PM Cares Fund on April 19, 2021, only when the situation had spiralled out of control.
  2. No deal was secured with the foreign manufactures to make up for vaccine’s production deficit till January 2021. That too said, only 16 million doses were ordered for a country with a staggering population of 1.2 billion.
  3. The ongoing oxygen crisis could have been averted, if the plan proposed in October 2020, to set up 162 oxygen producing units across 152 district hospitals in India would have been timely implemented. Unfortunately, only 33 plants have been set up so far, with Uttar Pradesh still standing at zero.
  4. The B.1.167 strain was detected in India on October 5th 2020 but no sirens were raised to alarm the people. The government acted too late as the Covid Genomics Consortium was set up only in January 2021, with ten operational labs and the funds were released to the Department of Biotechnology on 31st March, 2021 only.
  5. No restrictions were put in place for super spreader events such as the massive election rallies and the ongoing Kumbh Mela. The upcoming elections in the state of Bengal and UP will engage lakhs of people, putting countless lives at stake.

Butool Zehra is a student pursuing History from Jamia Millia Islamia.

Edited by: Varda Ahmed

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members. 

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Written by Butool Zehra

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