COVID-19 Second Wave: India’s Worst Ever Health Crisis That Nobody Prepared For!

For the 5th consecutive day India’s daily new COVID-19 cases have been more than the unbelievable 2, 00,000 or 2 Lakh mark, with over 2.73 Lakh cases in the last 24 hours. Compared to the first pandemic peak of around 97,000 reached in mid-September 2020, we are staring at the mind-boggling fact that the daily numbers have almost tripled and are scared to guess the second peak even if it comes sooner than later, hopefully. Fatalities have also crossed the daily 1000 mark again as more 1600 people perished in the last 24 hours. However, the eternal chest-thumping self-styled ‘saviors’ of our country say that as per the deaths of around 1000 when the daily cases were less than 1 Lakh the fatalities now could have been three times higher, around 3000 per day, the negation of which means that the fatality rates are still low or even lower. Yes, numbers don’t matter for them; it is only their rates that have always been important, and they were boasting of India’s low fatality rate last year as if it were their doing.


The disturbing scenes are everywhere to behold across the country: patients crowding around the hospitals for admission; dead bodies lying in heaps and being disposed of in the most inhuman ways at times amid increasing stress of the doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers; queues and crowding even in the crematoriums for the final rituals of the unfortunate dead; the rate of national vaccination coming down instead being ramped up in view of the enveloping crisis; lack of oxygen supply, looming shortage of intensive care units and ventilators, shortage of supportive repurposed drugs; and so on. A state of absolute chaos that had nearly happened in 2020, has, perhaps, so far been averted thanks to the revamped health sector in response to the pandemic. But, for how long with the daily cases threatening to breach 3, 00,000 new cases per day? Can the health sector tackle such impossible loads in the coming days, and if the second peak gets delayed indefinitely? Chest-thumpers should enlighten us on this.


Did anybody in the country prepare for this? Perhaps some of the medical scientists/experts who know the behavior pattern of a viral outbreak, particularly in its second coming that always proves to be more dangerous, were aware of this and perhaps a few of them warned the governments accordingly. Unfortunately nothing came out of that with the ‘leaders’ of India being ecstatic over the country-wide unlocking and the approval accorded to two COVID-19 vaccines produced locally, in the glorious tradition of India being the leading vaccine-producer of the world. To add to their ‘strategy’ the attainment of the goal of ‘self-reliance and some business with it’ had been the most important step rather than thinking about a second wave.


In fact, a rising trend of new cases had been visible, mostly in Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, since late-February 2021 and there had been talks/fears/ about the new mutated variants of the SARS-Cov-2 coming to India. But, except for the slow-paced vaccination as per world protocols, there was no concern expressed, and the Election Commission of India went ahead with its announcement for assembly elections in five Indian states including Kerala and Tamil Nadu; all festivals, except for a particular community on some occasions, were approved; and politics of the Indian kind flourished unabated. Just when the galloping figures hit them hard they started putting the blame on the larger public for not following COVID appropriate behavior. Perhaps, that was the only ‘concern’ they were capable of expressing.


The ‘leaders’ and ‘visionaries’ occasionally indulged in virtual huddles discussing COVID measures, and in most other days freaked out in election rallies, resorting to all possible ‘measures’ to assemble the biggest of crowds. Well, when the ‘visionaries’ set the standards their rivals have to tread on the path of traditional politics. No ‘measures’ were taken to control public gatherings in view of the continuing poll phases in West Bengal, and rallies are still being indulged in even as the daily new cases cross two and half Lakh. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi made a positive gesture of withdrawing all rallies for the remaining three phases to which a local BJP leader only mocked him saying that Gandhi cancelled as he was not able to lure in big crowds. Yes, that is the crucial point: arranging the biggest of crowds, defeating their rivals at that, is the priority; that cases in West Bengal have been witnessed to rise from around 200 per day in early-March to nearly 8500 cases per day in the last 24 hours, hardly matters.


A few chest-thumpers eased the ways to perish for some critical patients as they indulged in photo opportunities by the side of a huge tanker of oxygen cylinders, delaying its supply by hours; while some others, constantly engaged in their usual power-grabbing game, allegedly tried to sabotage the state government ruled by rival parties by creating a deliberate shortage of a repurposed drug, and they were very annoyed when the state government found out taking action accordingly.


Do we need to mention the Kumbh celebrations where at least 2 million people have been taking holy baths in the river Ganges daily since the start of April 2021? How could they afford to hurt their sentiments in the larger interests of the ultimate votes, particularly when they missed it all last year? The most they could do was only to appeal to them for a symbolic celebration. And other mass festivals including Holi went on unabated all the while all across the COVID-tormented country, with the latest of an affected state justifying the holding of a forthcoming festival for they had approved it well before the cases started to rise. How very convenient.


A news report says that the government failed to anticipate the second wave totally, because they did nothing to make funds available to the two main vaccine-producing firms well in time to help them ramp up production. While everyone understood clearly that vaccination is the only solution to control the pandemic in the long run, particularly in a country like India. We have maintained in these pages that the Government of India never really helped out anybody with the demand-creating cash element despite the three financial packages declared with real ceremony.


Well, lockdowns, not called lockdowns any more, curfews and strict curbs are in place in most of the states at the moment. How it goes from here, we are scared even to guess, as we said earlier. We can only say our prayers: God save the country.