As I write this article, I’m waiting to get myself tested for Covid-19. But all test centres in the area have a waiting period of at least two days. And if this is the situation in one of the posh parts of Delhi – where people live in regularly sanitised apartments, travel in their own cars, work from home, and have separate bedrooms for quarantining themselves in separate bedrooms – how must other areas be dealing with the sudden Covid spike?
For the past three days, India has been reporting 2+ lakh new cases each day. Hospitals are facing a long line of coughing patients with disparaging oxygen levels, as are crematoriums with a queue of loved ones wrapped in labelled white plastic sheet. Our Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with people requesting for information on plasma donors and hospitals with ICU beds for their parents.
As the Centre continues to shout slogans at election campaigns and take a dip in the Ganga during the Kumbh Mela, here is a round-up of the Covid numbers that they have left for the state governments to manage on their own.
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The state has been reporting the highest number of active cases for the past few weeks, alone accounting for 27% of all fresh Covid cases in the country. However, this doesn’t stop the BJP and Shiv Sena from starting a political battle.
The state has been reporting a shortage of vaccines, the remdesivir medicine and oxygen supply in BMC hospitals, forcing patients to shift to other hospitals. Meanwhile, on April 18, 2021, a stock of remdesivir worth Rs 4.75 crore was found by the Mumbai police, suspecting that the drug was being illegally imported. To save the Gujarat pharmaceutical company that was moving the stock, BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis reached the spot to say that the government had ordered the stock from the company.
Though the state has not made it to the five worst-affected states due to Covid, many suspect that it is because of the severe undercounting by the state. A small city such as Surat has been cremating over 100 corpses in a single day for the past few days, reported BBC Gujarati. “[The crematorium’s] exhaust chimneys are melting because the gas furnaces are burning 24/7,” AltNews co-founder Pratik Sinha tweeted on April 15.
At this crematorium in Surat, in the last few days, 100-115 bodies have been arriving for cremation everyday. Otherwise, on an average day, they get 20-25 cremations. Their exhaust chimneys are melting because the gas furnaces are burning 24/7. [v @bbcnewsgujarati] pic.twitter.com/aI97OtuO3E
— Pratik Sinha (@free_thinker) April 15, 2021
Let alone provide adequate beds and oxygen supply in the hospitals, the Gujarat government did not even deem it necessary to dignify the death of its citizens by including them in the official numbers. As reported by Scroll.in, in Ahmedabad, the state government officially declared just 20 Covid deaths on April 12. But Sandesh, a leading Gujarati newspaper, claimed that at least 63 people had died in just one government-run Covid-19 hospital in the city on the same day.
If the competition is of apathy, one can always rely on the Yogi government to stand out. After videos and images of a large number of pyres burning on a crematorium ground in Lucknow went viral, the UP government ordered tin sheets to be put up around the ground to block the view.
Remember, pathology chains in the state have been reporting under-testing due to logistical constraints from the state, and there has been a shortage of hospital beds and oxygen supply in its capital city. But the government put up tin sheets to hide people’s pain.
While the second wave of coronavirus hit Delhi almost a month after it hit Maharashtra, it did not take much time for the capital city to surpass all numbers and become the worst-hit city within a span of few days. While the highest single-day peak for Mumbai has been 11,163 cases on April 4, Delhi recorded 25,000 fresh cases on April 18.
As long queues of Covid patients started forming outside state-run hospitals, the Delhi government has decided to convert banquet halls and hotels into makeshift facilities for treating patients.
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Similar headlines of record-breaking single-day cases have appeared on news channels of most other states. On April 4, Bengaluru recorded 8,155 cases, Chennai 2,564 cases and Pune 12,494 cases, the highest daily surge since the pandemic began. Amid campaigning for its eight-phase assembly election, West Bengal recorded its highest single-day spike on April 18 with 8,419 cases. The news does not seem to have reached the Election Commission, who has refused to club polling phases and imposed laughable restrictions in campaign rallies involving thousands of political workers
The last phase of polling in Bengal is on April 29, two days later. Can the country expect its prime minister to make his appearance before that and prioritise the country’s health? The answer is an eerie silence.