India is now recording more than 100,000 daily infections of COVID-19, a prevailing number compared to the daily peak reported in the last wave. While hospitals cannot deal with the number of patients waiting in line, authorities are pointing to a ‘double mutant’ variant to explain the rapid and unexpected surges.
After the record low of under 20,000 cases per day in January, Indian authorities became optimistic and were encouraged to rush to resume normal activities and, therefore, took for granted they had adequate measurements to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections.
“We should have used the lean period to strengthen safety protocols, increase testing and tracing, and ramp up vaccination,” said Dr. Yatin Mehta, the chairman of the critical care department at Medanta Hospital, who believed that India wasted its chance when the pandemic eased out during the beginning of this year.
Statistics provided by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare indicate the dangerous second wave arrived in the country on February 10 with 11,000 cases—and over the following 50 days, the daily average was around 22,000 cases. But in the next ten days, cases rose sharply, with the daily average reaching 89,800. Experts believe this rapid spread is deadlier and more infectious.
March saw an increase in daily cases after a short period of stability with roughly 22,000 cases. Then, on Monday, the country encountered the most significant spike ever since the pandemic begun with 273,810 daily cases.
Compare to the first wave, the transmission rate has been much more dramatic. India reported 11,000 cases on June 18 last year, and over the next 60 days, it added 35,000 new cases per day on average.
“A false sense of normalcy crept in and everybody, including people and officials, did not take measures to stop the second wave,” commented Dr. A Fathahudeen, who is part of Kerala state’s Covid task force,
In February, the doctor warned that despite the decreasing number of daily infections, the notion that the CCP Virus (COVID-19) is over should not be adopted. If ‘urgent actions’ were not taken, a tsunami would hit. His anticipation was materialized.
Meanwhile, scientists in India have dubbed a new COVID-19 variant as the reason behind the more ominous wave of the pandemic. On March 25, the country reported a new “double mutant” coronavirus strain discovered in samples obtained from various states.
The virus can be more infectious if double mutation appears in critical parts of the virus’s spike protein, facilitating it to escape the immune system, explained virologist Shahid Jameel.
Consequently, the immense number of new coronavirus patients has overwhelmed hospitals across the entire country. Chronic shortage of hospital beds are experienced in many Indian cities. Disturbingly, many patients, including those affected by coronavirus and other diseases, have to wait in lines up to days to receive treatments.
“We didn’t learn any lesson from the first wave. We had reports of some cities running out of beds even in the first wave and that should have been a good enough reason to be prepared for the second wave,” said Anant Bhan, public health expert.
BBC reported that Delhi, Mumbai, and Ahmedabad, where the CCP Virus hit the hardest, have nearly been depleted of vacant hospital beds, with other cities like Lucknow, Bhopal, Kolkata, Allahabad, and Surat are experiencing the same situation.
Additionally, the outlet reported that as journalists visited crematoriums in several cities, they saw that the service had to constantly run for 24 hours and still have the deceased waiting in line to be cremated. Compare with the death rates reported by local authorities, the apparent nuances indicate that there have been a significant amount of unreported deaths.
One journalist in Uttar Pradesh state reported to BBC that on April 14 the state announced only 85 deaths, whereas he found nearly 100 funeral pyres burning in just one crematorium in the area.
The reason for the differences is believed to be that patients passed away at home, hence, would not have their name counted in the public database.