India is in the throes of one of its darkest moments since independence as a catastrophic second Covid-19 wave tears through it with dizzying speed. The country recorded an all-time high of more than 386,000 new infections on Thursday, along with more than 3,500 deaths. Most experts say the actual number of fatalities is far higher.
Prime minister Narendra Modi and his government have been accused of exacerbating the crisis by failing to prepare after a sharp drop in cases led to claims the country was in the “endgame” of the pandemic. The latest surge has surpassed anything endured since Covid-19 first struck. It has cut across the country’s many social, economic and geographic divides, affecting both rich and poor in rural and urban areas.
The turmoil has been intensified by a crippling shortage of life-saving supplies such as oxygen as well as new Covid-19 variants. New lockdowns are also threatening to derail the recovery of what had been the world’s fastest-growing large economy. Here are the stories of four people confronting the crisis.
During the first wave last year, Aparna Hegde’s ward at the government-run Cama hospital for women and children had about 60 patients at a time. As India’s second wave surged, the number of patients shot up to 100.
She said the strain on hospitals had exposed a lack of preparation and chronic neglect of public healthcare. India spends only about 1 per cent of gross domestic product on the sector.
“We don’t learn from our mistakes at all,” she said. “The first wave ended and we didn’t think that a second wave could come.”