COVID is killing 120 people an hour in India, and it could stay really grim for months
New Delhi — A month after the second wave of coronavirus infections started sweeping over India, the country is mired in grief, and it could be weeks, even months before the situation improves. On Tuesday, yet another grim milestone was crossed: 20 million cases of COVID-19 registered since the start of the pandemic. About seven million of those were confirmed over the last month alone.
Of the total 222,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths in the country, more than 57,000 have been recorded over the last month. Thats about 80 deaths per hour, and as the governments toll only includes COVID deaths registered in hospitals, many believe the real toll is far higher. Even the official death rate has continued to climb. Over the last two weeks, the virus has claimed about 120 lives every hour, on average.
"I have lost all hope," Lily Priyamvada Pant, told CBS News at a crematorium in Delhi on Sunday. She had just watched her 40-year-old sons funeral pyre burn. Her whole family caught the virus, and her husband was still in an intensive care unit, unaware that his eldest son had succumbed to the disease.
"Doctors told me if you tell him, he will not survive," she said. "He is the CEO of a company and director of many companies… but he could help with nothing."
The feeling of helplessness is familiar in Indias cities now, and theres no sign yet that the dizzying infection rate is about start falling quickly. The sheer number of people suffering with the disease has crippled the countrys health care system, even in its wealthiest mega-cities.
There were reports on Tuesday that dozens of U.S. Embassy staff in Delhi were among the latest confirmed infections, but an embassy spokesperson told CBS News that while the health and safety of staff and their families was "among the [State] Departments highest priorities," and that it would "take all necessary measures to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our employees, including offering vaccines," they could not confirm details due to privacy concerns.
Hospital beds, doctors and nurses, ventilators, oxygen and medicines have all been in short supply. Almost a month after CBS News first reported on those shortages — and despite government claims that there is no oxygen shortage, and the fact that tons of foreign medical aid has started to arrive — there has been no meaningful improvement in the supply of these necessities.
States including Maharashtra and Delhi had to completely defer the rollout of vaccines to younger adults as they simply didnt have enough of the drugs. Vaccination centres in Indias financial capital of Mumbai were completely shuttered from Friday right through the weekend.
The younger people invited by the government to book their vaccinations from this month, between the ages of aged 18 and 45, have struggled to find available slots on the governments online registration platform.
On Monday, Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of the Serum Institute of India, which has been manufacturing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in India under the name Covishield, warned that the vaccine shortage would continue for months. He told the Financial Times that production would increase from the current 60-70 million doses per month to 100 million, but not until July.