DW News presents a special edition on India’s unfolding coronavirus crisis. More than a million and a half cases in just a week, and thousands of deaths, every day. India is overwhelmed. Crematoriums are working overtime, hospitals can’t take in more patients and medical supplies are running low. How did it come to this and will things get worse, before they get better?
The deadly chaos of the second wave of coronavirus infections is in stark contrast to the first. Last year, India dealt with that by imposing what was called the world’s strictest lockdown. India’s streets fell empty and coronavirus case counts dropped eventually, seemingly contrary to warnings about the danger India faced.
Even before the coronavirus spread around the world, epidemiologists warned that India could see the worst of it. Some of the most crowded cities on earth coupled with an ailing healthcare system foreshadowed disaster.
But the first wave of the pandemic seemed to have spared India. At the end of March 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a total lockdown of the entire population for three weeks – the most severe step taken anywhere in the world at that point.
It appeared to be a success. By the beginning of summer, the country of 1.3 billion people was still recording a small number of daily cases. When monsoon season hit, cases rose steadily, peaking at over 90,000 per day. But in October, with the virus in decline, government scientists speculated that India had reached herd immunity.
The ruling party flaunted its success. Modi spoke at the World Economic Forum at the end of January, declaring the virus ‘defeated.’ When India began vaccinating, it took pride in exporting vaccines to other countries in need.
Then came Spring, and with it, the spread of two new coronavirus variants, British and Indian. Cases began rising. The government imposed some restrictions, but millions gathered to celebrate the Holi festival of colors and Kumbh Mela at the Ganges River.
India’s second wave was swift and unstoppable. The daily case count in April has doubled every ten days – an exponential curve. Even the most optimistic models predict India could see another month of this before the second wave peaks.
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