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Editorial: 1.5 crore cases and counting
A significant chunk of Indian citizens has been losing sleep over the past few days, owing to the relentless spike in COVID-19 cases, coupled with the never-ending reportage of healthcare inadequacies and mounting fatalities since the start of this week.
Wednesday was a black day in all respects as the nation recorded 3 lakh fresh cases, which also witnessed the deaths of as many as 2,000 people – the highest single-day spike, so far. The states that contributed the most to Wednesday’s peak include Maharashtra with 62,097 cases, Kerala at 22,414, Karnataka at 23,558, Tamil Nadu at 11,681 cases and Andhra Pradesh at 9,716 cases. India’s caseload at this point stands at 1.57 crore cases – having breached one million cases in the last four days.
Currently, India is trailing behind the United States where the caseload has hit 3.18 crore cases, while fatalities stood at 5.6 lakh. In terms of caseload, our nation has already surpassed Brazil which had 1.39 crore cases and 3.72 lakh fatalities. What might be a silver lining, if at all such terms make sense in times as grim as these, is that India’s fatalities are 1.83 lakh individuals, which is still comparatively a lower number than that of nations leading the pack in COVID caseloads. The second wave, which is now blazing across India, is dealing a much heavier impact, in terms of the rate of transmission. A report released by the Lancet COVID-19 Commission – India Task Force revealed that it took less than 40 days for India to go from 10,000 new cases per day in February 2021 to 80,000 new cases per day in April 2021. As per the study, this spike in the rate of transmission took around 83 days in September 2020. Essentially, the speed at which infections are spreading is doubling.
The situation in Tamil Nadu is also equally disturbing. The daily caseload recently crossed 10,000 cases in the state, which had just been through rounds of extensive campaigning and election-related activities, due to the polls held on April 6. The High Court back then had warned that Tamil Nadu must brace for the worst in the aftermath of these superspreader political events, where social distancing and masking, took a backseat. Worryingly, Chennai is among those districts, pan-India, that has consistently been part of the top 10 per cent, vis-a-vis COVID caseloads, throughout the year.
But then, in a nation such as ours, the axiom ‘the show must go on’ seems to be the going mantra, surging caseloads be damned. Having been crippled by the impact of circuit breaking lockdowns, the population had no option, but to go on with their lives. With a vaccination programme that was seemingly rolled out with more emphasis on COVID diplomacy, than with breaking the chain in our own country, eligible citizens across the country were left wondering if at all their second shots would be delivered, while millions are yet to get their first dose of the COVID vaccine.
One year into the pandemic, the nation is finding itself back to square one, held together by the glue of a fatigued healthcare infrastructure where several institutions are being pummelled by the weight of admissions. The Health Ministry has also admitted on Sunday that our daily positivity rate has doubled in the last 12 days – from 8% to 16.69%. Hospitals are compelled to carry out triage protocols in the absence of essential supplies, amidst the serpentine queues of caretakers who have exhausted all options. Pushed into a corner, state administrations are mulling stricter restrictions, which have become the go-to option to combat India’s quick march to the two crore mark.
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