Underreporting in India likely as Covid-19 Surges
India’s official tally of COVID-19 cases eclipsed 21 million last week with a new record of 412,262 cases announced last Thursday. The country reported nearly 4,000 deaths in the 24 hours preceding the announcement. At least 11 of those deaths were the direct result of equipment failure, reports The Times of India.
According to locals, these figures are gross underestimates to conceal the extent of the crisis.
“In some areas of rural Bihar, considerably less than 1% of infections were being detected,” says Murad Banaji, a mathematician and lecturer at Middlesex University in London.
“There has been tremendous data denial,” adds Bhramar Mukherjee, a biostatistician at the University of Michigan. “People didn’t want to believe, and the government didn’t want to believe, that this was actually going to explode.”
Mukherjee expects India’s Covid-19 caseload to peak in mid-May with as many as 1 million new cases a day.
To cope with the body count, playgrounds and parking lots are now mass cremation grounds. Officials in south Delhi have to obtain wood from neighboring states to sustain the pyres.
“The situation is very grim here,” says Dr. Aniket Sirohi, a physician working in south Delhi. “We are short of everything…I want to say to the world, ‘Help us, in any way you can.’”
Perhaps the most-needed resource is oxygen, the demand for which has increased by 700% over the past month.
Most hospitals in India do not have oxygen-generating plants. Thus, they are forced to rely on liquid oxygen, which is stored in cylinders and transported by tankers.
Last week, a sea route was established to transport liquid oxygen from Kuwait and Bahrain. Additional supplies, including oxygen, rapid tests, and components to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine, are en route from the United States and Europe.
In the meantime, India has teamed up with hundreds of other low-income nations to pressure the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines. President Joe Biden endorses the proposal. However, vaccine makers and European nations who fear the economic repercussions and potential risk to human health oppose it. (click here to read more).
Author’s Note: With a population of more than 1.3 billion and a history of poor sanitation, it’s no surprise Covid-19 is surging in India. This would be a great opportunity for the United States to solidify an alliance. But Biden’s efforts are underwhelming and he doesn’t understand the opportunity.