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Gandhi warns 'explosive' COVID wave threatens India and the world

WorldMay 09, 2021 09:37PM ET
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5/5 © Reuters. A man suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19), receives treatment as a Syringe Infusion Pump, donated by France is seen next to his bed, inside the emergency room of Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, India, May 7, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi 2/5

By Nivedita Bhattacharjee and Anuron Kumar Mitra

BENGALURU (Reuters) -India's main opposition leader Rahul Gandhi warned on Friday that unless the deadly second COVID-19 wave sweeping the country was brought under control it would devastate India as well as threaten the rest of the world.

In a letter, Gandhi implored Prime Minister Narendra Modi to prepare for another national lockdown, accelerate a countrywide vaccination programme and scientifically track the virus and its mutations.

Gandhi said the world's second-most populous nation had a responsibility in "a globalised and interconnected world" to stop the "explosive" growth of COVID-19 within its borders.

"India is home to one out of every six human beings on the planet. The pandemic has demonstrated that our size, genetic diversity and complexity make India fertile ground for the virus to rapidly mutate, transforming itself into a more contagious and more dangerous form," wrote Gandhi.

"Allowing the uncontrollable spread of the virus in our country will be devastating not only for our people but also for the rest of the world."

India's highly infectious COVID-19 variant B.1.617 has already spread to other countries, and many nations have moved to cut or restrict movements from India.

British Prime Minister Boris said on Friday the government needed to handle very carefully the emergence of new coronavirus strains in India that have since started to spread in the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile tonnes of medical equipment from abroad has starting to arrive in Delhi hospitals, in what could ease the pressure on an overburdened system.

VACCINATION RATES

In the past week, India has reported an extra 1.5 million new infections and record daily death tolls. Since the start of the pandemic, it has reported 21.49 million cases and 234,083 deaths. It currently has 3.6 million active cases.

Modi 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.

His government - which imposed a strict lockdown in March 2020 - has also been criticised for lifting social restrictions too soon following the first wave and for delays in the country's vaccination programme.

The government has been reluctant to impose a second lockdown for fear of the damage to the economy, though many states have announced their own restrictions.

Goa, a tourism hotspot on the west coast where up to one in two people tested in recent weeks for coronavirus have been positive, on Friday announced strict curbs from Sunday, restricting timings for grocery shops, forbidding unnecessary travel and urging citizens to cancel all gatherings.

While India is the world's biggest vaccine maker, it is also struggling to produce and distribute enough doses to stem the wave of COVID-19.

Although the country has administered at least 157 million vaccine doses, its rate of inoculation has fallen sharply https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/INDIA/jbyprwkawve/chart.png in recent days.

India vaccinated 2.3 million people on Thursday, the most this month but still far short of what is required to curb the spread of the virus.

RECORD INFECTIONS

India reported another record daily rise in coronavirus cases, 414,188, on Friday, bringing total new cases for the week to 1.57 million. Deaths from COVID-19 rose by 3,915 to 234,083.

Medical experts say the real extent of COVID-19 is likely to be far higher than official tallies.

India's healthcare system is crumbling under the weight of patients, with hospitals running out of beds and medical oxygen. Morgues and crematoriums cannot handle the number of dead and makeshift funeral pyres burn in parks and car parks.

Infections are now spreading from overcrowded cities to remote rural villages that are home to nearly 70% of the 1.3 billion population.

Although northern and western areas of India bear the brunt of the disease, the south now seems to be turning into the new epicentre.

In the southern city of Chennai, only one in a hundred oxygen-supported beds and two in a hundred beds in intensive care units (ICUs) were vacant on Thursday, from a vacancy rate of more than 20% each two weeks ago, government data showed.

In India's tech capital Bengaluru, also in the south, only 23 of the 590 beds in ICUs were vacant.

The test-positivity rate — the percentage of people tested who are found to have the disease — in the city of 12.5 million has tripled to almost 39% as of Wednesday, from about 13% two weeks ago, data showed.

Syed Tousif Masood, a volunteer with a COVID-19 resource group in Bengaluru called the Project Smile Trust, said the group's helpline was receiving an average 5,000 requests a day for hospital beds and oxygen, compared with 50-100 such calls just one month ago.

"The experts say we have not yet hit the peak," he said. "If this is not the peak, then I don't know what will happen at the real peak."

Gandhi warns 'explosive' COVID wave threatens India and the world
 

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Comments (7)
biden dennis
biden dennis May 10, 2021 1:12AM ET
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its because of politicans like you that contributed to all these mess! only the poor suffer the most due to all these rich people and their political agenda. why is he still comment?
Vamana Prabhu
Vamana Prabhu May 09, 2021 11:31PM ET
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Last year same guy condemned the lockdown , this year proposing it. He is not a serious political leader. And in your headlines u said he is leader of main opp party. But actually in india his party is losing credentials & no where he is winning elctions . he has become a laughing stock in the last 5-7 yeras , Dont believe in these reporters
Joel Schwartz
Joel Schwartz May 09, 2021 11:31PM ET
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Wow, it’s almost like COVID has gotten out of control in India from where it was a year ago...
Ankit Jain
Ankit Jain May 09, 2021 11:11PM ET
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cases is peaking is the new synonyms for achhe din . remeber the weekend have always look good but weekdays are messed same goes with covid .and that too with lockdown like restriction in place
danny Levine
danny Levine May 09, 2021 10:07PM ET
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I've been saying this many times. lockdowns will cause more harm for india than covid itself!
vijay misra
vijay misra May 09, 2021 9:46PM ET
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time to invest in India fund
vijay misra
vijay misra May 09, 2021 9:46PM ET
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He did not oppose when election rallies and Kumbh Meal was allowed to go through, Now when cases have peaked and slowing down he creates a fear. Cangress is a sham.
danny Levine
danny Levine May 09, 2021 9:41PM ET
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fear mongering
Jozef Drozd
Jozef Drozd May 09, 2021 9:41PM ET
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Deaths 242K , less then half of the deaths of the USA , lol. India needs 2.5 millions deaths to match US . Obviously I don't want that .
Joel Schwartz
Joel Schwartz May 09, 2021 9:41PM ET
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Jozef Drozd the US isn’t cremating people in the streets...
Moi Meme
Moi Meme May 09, 2021 9:41PM ET
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Joel Schwartz also reporting of covid cases and death is very limited. Many rural area cases not included.
 
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