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The Financial Express

Scientist warns further Covid waves 'inevitable' in India

| Updated: May 07, 2021 12:57:15


Healthcare workers and relatives carry a woman from an ambulance for treatment at a COVID-19 care facility, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mumbai, India, May 4, 2021 - Reuters photo Healthcare workers and relatives carry a woman from an ambulance for treatment at a COVID-19 care facility, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mumbai, India, May 4, 2021 - Reuters photo

A top scientific adviser to the Indian government warned on Wednesday the country would inevitably face further waves of the coronavirus pandemic, as almost 4,000 people died in the space of a day.

With hospitals scrabbling for beds and oxygen in response to a deadly second surge in infections, the World Health Organisation said in a weekly report that India accounted for nearly half the coronavirus cases reported worldwide last week and a quarter of the deaths.

Many people have died in ambulances and car parks waiting for a bed or oxygen, while morgues and crematoriums struggle to deal with a seemingly unstoppable flow of bodies.

The government's principal scientific adviser, K VijayRaghavan, warned that even after infection rates subside the country should be ready for a third wave, reports Reuters.

"Phase 3 is inevitable, given the high levels of circulating virus," he told a news briefing. "But it is not clear on what timescale this phase 3 will occur... We should prepare for new waves."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has been widely criticised for not acting sooner to suppress the second wave, after religious festivals and political rallies drew tens of thousands of people in recent weeks and became "super spreader" events.

"We are running out of air. We are dying," the Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy wrote in an opinion piece that called for Modi to step down.

"This is a crisis of your making," she added in the article published on Tuesday. "You cannot solve it. You can only make it worse....So please go."

India's delegation to the Group of Seven foreign ministers' meeting in London is self-isolating after two of its members tested positive for COVID-19, Britain said on Wednesday

Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who is in London, said in a Twitter message that he would attend virtually.

GOVERNMENT RESISTING LOCKDOWN

Deaths rose by a record 3,780 during the past 24 hours, health ministry data showed, and daily infections rose by 382,315 on Wednesday. The number has been in excess of 300,000 every day for the past two weeks.

Medical experts say India's actual figures could be five to 10 times the official tallies. The country has added 10 million cases in just over four months, after taking more than 10 months to reach its first 10 million.

The opposition has urged a nationwide lockdown, but the government is reluctant to impose one for fear of the economic fallout, although several states have adopted social curbs.

In the latest move the eastern state of West Bengal, where voters dealt Modi's party a defeat in an election last week, suspended local train services and limited working hours for banks and jewellery shops, among its steps to limit infections.

The central bank asked banks on Wednesday to allow more time for some borrowers to repay loans, as the crisis threatens a nascent economic revival.

FALL IN VACCINATIONS, TESTING

The surge in infections has coincided with a dramatic drop in vaccinations because of supply and delivery problems, despite India being a major vaccine producer.

At least three states, including Maharashtra, home to the commercial capital of Mumbai, have reported a scarcity of vaccines, shutting down some inoculation centres.

Lengthy queues formed outside two centres in the western city that still have vaccine supplies, and some of those waiting pleaded for police to open their gates earlier.

The government said production capacity for the antiviral drug remdesivir, used to treat COVID-19 patients, has trebled to 10.3 million vials per month, up from 3.8 million vials a month ago.

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