By Anmoldeep Kaur
India’s weekly average for new coronavirus cases had been declining since December 2020, and the nation’s vaccine campaign had already vaccinated almost six million people by February. As a result, the country was optimistic that the threat of COVID-19 was being contained as restrictions were being lifted.
However, India witnessed a sudden surge of cases beginning in early February, making this the first major rise in five months. According to the World Health Organization, India reported 148,249 confirmed cases the week of March 8, 2021, and 1,429,304 cases the week of April 12, 2021. Cases in India increased by about 1.3 million in five weeks prompting the country to face a crisis it was not prepared for.
Reproduced with permission from Wikimedia Commons
A number of uncontrolled large gatherings coupled with other factors led to major COVID-19 outbreaks all across the country of India.
"Personally, I think it is scary how in India everything seemed like it was going to be alright, but all of a sudden, cases started spiking, and it seemed like we went back in time. And even though I'm not in India right now, I feel like this issue is so prevalent. While things are relaxing, I keep thinking about how in India they were relaxing and got hit with another wave almost as intense or maybe more than it was before. I'm actually really sad about this because while I may not live in India, I go there almost every summer or whenever we get a chance," said senior Deep Kaur.
The cause of this spike can be attributed to many factors. Large social gatherings that violated safety guidelines were taking place in the country as state elections approached and political campaigns held large rallies. The country also hosted the Khumb Mela in early April, which is the world’s largest religious festival, where millions of pilgrims gathered in the town of Haridwar to bathe in the Ganges River despite the rise of cases. The government’s lack of effort to contain large events and gatherings is believed to be why the country saw such a sudden and steep rise in cases.
“The government has been criticized for its actions in response to the crisis but has taken on initiatives such as using railways to transport oxygen...”
The slow vaccination rate could have contributed to the rise of new cases because the country began the process in January and had vaccinated six million people in a nation of about 1.4 billion people. Metropolitan cities like Mumbai and Delhi have been impacted the most since these cities do not have the facilities to accommodate patients diagnosed.
Hospitals and medical personnel were not prepared for the volume of patients they received, which led to extreme stress on the nation’s healthcare system. The decline in the availability of hospital beds, shortage of oxygen supply, and the inability to transport oxygen to major cities led to an unprecedented health crisis in India. The shortage of oxygen had become so severe that citizens began pleading on social media sites for help and others turned to the black market to purchase oxygen cylinders. The situation continued to worsen as crematoriums and graveyards ran out of space and were forced to construct makeshift facilities to conduct mass cremations. The government has been criticized for its actions in response to the crisis but has taken on initiatives such as using railways to transport oxygen and using the Indian Air Force to fly in twenty-three oxygen generation plants from Germany to aid the public.
“Hearing about the COVID crisis in India had my entire family worried. My mom's side of the family is all residing in India, and we made calls to everybody we knew that lived there. Disregarding family, the other Indian citizens that live there are also in our thoughts and prayers based on all the news we've heard about on the TV or even straight from my family members. Personally, I call my grandparents every day now to make sure they are both doing well and staying safe with all this going on in India. I hope the cases go down and that, soon, everything will go back to normal,” said senior Siya Sharma.
As the country continues to fight against the virus during this crisis, countries worldwide are providing aid to India to help its citizens during this challenging time.