India has seen a surge in covid cases in mid-March. At the time, the cases weren’t alarming, but when April rolled in, numbers rose up to more than 300,000 every day with sustained deaths. Most hospitals in the subcontinent are overwhelmed and cannot handle the daily number of people coming in to ask for medical assistance.
In most states in the country, people are fighting to acquire oxygen tanks and hospital beds to get treatment. The death toll is also a growing concern as many funeral homes cannot accommodate the number of bodies being brought by family members.
Since many families cannot give their deceased loved ones proper burial, they just submerge them in rivers in hopes to have their souls absolved of sins. Recent reports of dead bodies washing up on the riverbanks in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have been the latest concern of authorities.
‘Private hospitals are looting people. Common people are not left with money to pay a priest and spend more on cremation at the river bank. They are asking 2,000 rupees (around $27) just to get the corpse out of the ambulance. The river has become their last recourse, so people are immersing corpses in the river, said a local named Chanda Mohan.
The surge in the covid case in India can be attributed to the new genome sequence of the covid-19 virus. Even neighbouring countries in South Asia have been reporting a massive increase in cases. In Bangladesh, the highest number of people afflicted with covid rose to more than 7,000 in a day.
According to immunologists at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura in Colombo, out of the 78 samples they took, 66 showed positive for the new variant called B.1.17, which contained a highly transmissible genome.
Gavin Smith, a viral evolutionary biologist from Duke NUS said that learning viral sequencing is important to help governments and healthcare workers understand the situation and implement effective protocols for the people.
‘Sequencing has always been important, but it is critical now because we are getting to a stage where more and more new variants are cropping up. We need sequence data to see what is going on,’ said Gavin.
Many Indians were disappointed with the government’s response because instead of prioritizing the second wave last year, Prime Minister Modi was busy building a new temple of Ayodhya.
‘We didn’t learn any lesson from the first wave. We had reports of some cities running out of beds even in the first wave and that should have been a good enough reason to be prepared for the second wave’, said public health expert Anant Bhan.
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