India, the current epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, has reported more than 2 million new cases and 18,000 Covid-related deaths this week alone, as a catastrophic second wave continues throughout the country, pushing hospitals and crematoriums past their breaking point.
India’s Health Ministry on Saturday reported 401,993 new infections, the highest number of new cases reported yet in a single country in a 24-hour span.
Hospitals throughout the country continue to plead for medical supplies, especially oxygen.
Despite being the world’s leading producer of vaccines, only 2% of India’s population has been vaccinated.
The surge in cases and hospitalizations in India has been attributed to several factors, including relaxed restrictions following a drop in infections in February, and environmental determinants such as decreased humidity in some parts of the country. Health experts believe a new variant of the coronavirus, B.1.617, often referred to as the “double mutant,” is also responsible for the rampant spread. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have received increased criticism as well. As recently as April 17, a maskless Modi campaigned at rallies with thousands of supporters who also weren’t wearing face coverings.
“The government has failed us all,” said Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the general secretary of opposition party Indian National Congress, earlier this week. “Even those of us who oppose and fight them could not have foreseen a complete abdication of leadership and governance at a time as devastating as this.”
India’s neighbor Nepal also is in crisis, with more than 5,600 new cases on Friday, its highest one-day total since October. In a statement issued Friday, Nepal’s Health Ministry warned, “coronavirus cases have spiked beyond the capacity of the health system, and hospitals have run out of beds,” adding, ominously, “the situation is unmanageable.”