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India in pandemic : "We are at the end"

Until recently, the Indian journalist Vinay Srivastava sent desperate calls for help on Twitter. “When will someone help me? I urgently need oxygen. ”It was his last tweet. A little later, the 65-year-old died of Covid-19 on Friday evening while waiting for an ambulance.

On Sunday, India reported 261,500 new corona infections within one day and 1,501 corona deaths. The total number of Indian corona cases rose to almost 14.8 million, a total of 177 150 Indians have died so far.

“It's worse than World War II,” complains Jalil Parkar, pulmonologist at Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai. More than 800 doctors have died of Covid-19 in India. "We are exhausted, we are finished," said Parkar of the "Hindustan Times".

Mumbai is particularly hard hit by the new corona wave that is afflicting India. In the private Vinayaka hospital in Chembur, about an hour away from Mumbai, eight patients died in one day because the oxygen reserves were exhausted.

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More than 150 hospitals have been waiting for six months to get a facility for filling medical oxygen, as the government has promised. Corona drugs such as remdesivir or tocilizumab have also run out in the clinics. Desperate relatives are looking for such preparations on social media.

People bathe in the Ganges as if there was no Corona

Even the crematoria can no longer keep up. In the past week, more than 100 corona deaths were brought to the Kurukhsetra incineration site in the city of Surat. When the corpses were cremated around the clock, the metal frames of the ovens melted.

In response to the crisis, numerous major cities have issued curfews and lockdowns. In the capital New Delhi, hotels and ballrooms are being converted into treatment centers for the less seriously ill.

The appearance of a new virus mutant is a cause for concern: variant B.1.617 is already responsible for over 60 percent of new corona diseases in the heavily afflicted state of Maharashtra. This variant, which first appeared in India at the beginning of the year, has a double mutation in the spike protein of the virus and is far more contagious than the wild-type virus.

It is speculated that this new variant is partly responsible for the new corona wave. Hospitals report that the number of children being treated is now also increasing. There is a strong increase in the age group of one to five year olds.

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India's health system is chronically underfunded. The area accounts for less than two percent of the gross domestic product. The “largest vaccination program in the world”, which the Indian government has wholeheartedly announced, has stalled because far too little money was invested in the sector from the start, in the hope that the private sector would sort things out.

Religious and political mass gatherings

Now the Serum Institute of India (SII), the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world, is complaining about massive bottlenecks in the raw materials for its production. The SII has already reduced its deliveries abroad to zero in order to supply the domestic market. Only 2.5 percent of the Indian population have so far been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. At this rate, it could take a decade for 70 percent of the 1.3 billion Indians to receive a corona injection.

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Despite the severe crisis, the month-long mega-election in the Indian state of West Bengal continues unchanged. The Kumbh Mela, the largest religious mass event in the world, is also taking place as if there was no pandemic. So far, almost five million Hindu pilgrims in the north Indian city of Haridwar have taken a traditional bath in the Ganges River, many of them without mouth and nose protection.

"The images of election campaign events, of religious gatherings, of farmers' protests - any form of mass gathering - are not only idiotic, they are also an insult to the doctors fighting on the front line," criticized Indian TV reporter Barkha Dutt in the "Hindustan Times".

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