A forum of scientific advisers set up by the government warned Indian officials in early March of a new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus taking hold in the country, five scientists who are part of the forum told Reuters.
Despite the warning, four of the scientists said the federal government did not seek to impose major restrictions to stop the spread of the virus. Millions of largely unmasked people attended religious festivals and political rallies that were held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and opposition politicians.
Tens of thousands of farmers, meanwhile, continued to camp on the edge of New Delhi protesting Modi’s agricultural policy changes.
The world’s second-most populous country is now struggling to contain a second wave of infections much more severe than its first last year, which some scientists say is being accelerated by the new variant and another variant first detected in Britain. India reported 386,452 new cases on Friday, a global record. [Continue reading…]
In India’s capital city, citizens are dying in their hospital beds because they can’t breathe. Their lungs, clotted with Covid-induced pneumonia, need oxygen to function. Overwhelmed by India’s tsunami-like second wave and undermined by the smug inertia of the state, hospitals run out of oxygen and patients choke to death in front of their horrified families.
Sometimes hospitals will discharge patients on oxygen support, casually giving their relatives a day or two to find rare air. They set off on frantic odysseys around Delhi, looking for one of two sources of oxygen: a heavy cylinder that weighs 50kg or more and looks like a dented relic from the Industrial Revolution, or a concentrator which extracts oxygen from the air in the room and pipes it into the patient. Delhi is something of a seller’s market. Prices vary. The going rate for a concentrator this week is 160,000 rupees, or slightly more than £1,500. That is a month’s salary for a tenured professor in a public university.
There is a harrowing video of a traumatised and angry young woman standing in the lobby of a hospital in Lucknow, the capital of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. She is looking into the camera and raging. Her father’s oxygen levels are dangerously low. The hospital, she says, has run out of oxygen twice. Her father is being given hand-pumped oxygen for which she’s paying 40,000 rupees a day. The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh has threatened legal action against anyone who complains of oxygen shortages because he insists there is no such shortage. She calls him out and dares him to come to the hospital to make good his threat.
Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister in question, is a Hindu monk with a vigilante past and a well-earned reputation for being a dangerous man to cross. He has recently threatened to seize the property of people complaining of the unavailability of oxygen because they are lying rumour-mongers, spreading panic. For a young woman to dare a politician of Adityanath’s ilk to do his worst in Lucknow is a measure of her – and the general public’s – desperation. [Continue reading…]