Covid-19 cases in India could reach 500 million, experts say

A ground crematorium in Allahabad, India on April 27, 2021.

A ground crematorium in Allahabad, India on April 27, 2021.
Photo: Sanjay Kanojia / AFP (Getty Images)

Indian government officials, not quite rosy themselves, seem to massively underestimate the extent of covid-19 pandemic ravaging the country.

Indian health authorities have reported more than 17.6 million cases, but some health researchers suspect the actual tally could be tens of times higher – perhaps even more than half a billion, CNN Reports. The testing capacity in the country of around 1.4 billion remains insufficient, with nearly 2 million tests processed per day. World Health Organization chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan told the Indian network the nationwide positivity rate is around 15% and up to 30% in cities like Delhi, indicating an impressive number of cases left out of the official statement– or because the infected persons in question are asymptomatic, poor or cannot access the tests. Swaminathan added to CNN that previous serological surveys in other countries had shown infection rates “at least 20 to 30 times higher than what had been reported,” meaning India could have known until ‘to 529 million cases so far.

Much evidence exists elsewhere than the official government account, now at 300,000 cases per day, is far from grasping the full extent of the crisis. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the leader of the far-right Bharatiya Janata party, has regularly played down the virus and instead appeared more interested in remove reviews on social media sites. Meanwhile, India’s medical system has collapsed, with a staff shortage and virtually all supplies and equipment. Hospitals in India are reportedly turning away patients by the hundreds because of lack of beds or oxygen. The death toll is crushing crematoria in New Delhi and other cities, where huge funeral pyres operate around the clock.

“In Delhi, at least 3,000 people attended the funeral last week,” said Max Rodenbeck, the head of The EconomistSouth Asia office, said Monday, via CNN. “There is a crematorium in Delhi, which is a large lot in the park, and (it’s) building 100 new funeral pyres … It’s again in India’s largest city with the most attention. What is going on beyond Delhi is pretty horrific.

Community medicine specialist Dr Hemant Shewade told CNN that even before the pandemic, only 86% of deaths have reportedly been officially recorded by the government, while only 22% of those registered have received an official cause of death. Numerous deaths involving the novel coronaviruses are probably recorded as resulting from other causes or are not attributed at all. According to New York Times, Bhopal city officials reported just 41 covid-19-related deaths as of mid-April, but the “main cOvid-19 ‘cremation and burial sites reported 1,000 deaths during the same period. A similar undercoverage was reported in Lucknow, Mirzapur and Gujarat. Bhopal-based cardiologist Dr GC Gautam told the newspaper: “Many deaths go unrecorded and they are increasing every day. … they [government officials] I don’t want to panic. “

“We won’t know until later how many people were infected,” Swaminathan told CNN on Monday.

Rupal Thakkar, 48, died in private hospital in Ahmedabad in mid-April after his oxygen levels dropped. His brother, Dipan Thakkar, told The Times that his death was recorded as due to “sudden cardiac death” and that “IIt was a shock for life. Why would a private hospital collude with the government by hiding the real death numbers? It was organized crime. It was an illegal act.

Much of the tragedy in India is believed to be due to a new variant of the coronavirus known as B.1.617. He has many mutations, some of which can make him more contagious than the original strain. Existing vaccines against covid-19 seem effective against. But despite India’s status as a pharmaceutical powerhouse which is around 60% vaccines around the world, more than 90% of the population has not yet received a single injection. President Joe Biden’s administration told Modi Monday that the United States will send India “supplies related to oxygen, vaccines and therapeutics”, and Sunday, it announced that it will do so share 60 million doses AstraZeneca vaccine with the rest of the world (many going to India). As public health experts attribute part of botched deployment to complacency after pandemic in India appeared to end down in September 2020, according to PBS, the country is running out of supplies to vaccinate its own population after producers signed so many export contracts.

Swaminathan told PBS India currently vaccinates around 2 million people per day, but the rate is expected to be 6 million to 7 million, and India “must multiply its manufacturing capacity by several”. The UBS investment bank estimates that at the current rate, only a quarter of India’s population will receive the vaccine by the end of 2021, according to the the Wall Street newspaper, and some private hospitals may price the vaccine at $ 10- $ 32 a dose, well outside the resources of many low-income families.

“If we had more precise data in terms of cases, infections and deaths, then, of course we will be much better prepared and anticipate health resource needs as well, ”University of Michigan biostatistics and epidemiology professor Bhramar Mukherjee told CNN. “[Faulty data] doesn’t really change the truth. It only makes matters worse for policy makers to anticipate needs. “

If you have the resources, consider donating to organizations helping to tackle the crisis in India. Links to charities and fundraisers are available at The time of India, GoFundMe, Condé Nast Traveler, and The cup, as well as this full list of crowdsourcing individual fundraisers run by volunteers on Google Drive.

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