As cases rise, India fears another Covid catastrophe

As cases rise, India fears another Covid catastrophe


New Delhi: Haunted by the specter of last year’s crisis, India is preparing to cope with the proliferation of Covid-19 cases. Authorities in various megacities have taken restrictive measures to control the infection.

The number of cases has not yet been compared with the huge numbers seen last spring, when thousands of people died every day, and the Hindu holy city of Varanasi provided round-the-clock funeral pyre for mass cremation of virus victims.

But the number of daily infections this week has almost tripled in two days to more than 90,000. This is a surge driven by the highly contagious variant of Omicron, and some experts worry that the country’s hospitals may be overwhelmed again.

A curfew is imposed in Delhi, including the capital, and weekend movement restrictions will begin on Friday night. All non-essential workers are required to stay at home.

The technology center Bangalore also announced a weekend curfew, while the huge financial center Mumbai imposed a night curfew.

“Even a small percentage of a large number of cases translates to a large number in absolute terms,” Gautam Menon, a professor at India’s Ashoka University who has worked on Covid infection modelling, told AFP.

“This could potentially stress out health care systems to levels comparable to or worse than the second wave.”

Doctors and nurses who spoke to AFP have so far been optimistic, with fewer severe cases among those patients admitted to hospital — and with the benefit of experience.

“Last year, we didn’t know what exactly we were dealing with. I think now, mentally, it’s a little better,” one frontline worker at a Delhi hospital said.

Suresh Kumar, director of the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital in the capital, said that the number of cases in the hospital had increased from a few times earlier this week to 20 times. He said the increase was “not a cause of panic.” .

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration has so far shied away from the drastic nationwide lockdown introduced during last year’s catastrophic outbreak.

But local officials watched the sharp rise in the number of cases with vigilance, and some of India’s largest urban centers have taken action to implement restrictions again.

The earlier virus blockade has dealt a heavy blow to the Indian economy, and many people are worried about the financial impact of the new restrictions.

“I will be working only for 15 days this month,” said Delhi resident Tumul Srivastava, whose office is subject to the 50 percent occupancy limits imposed by the city.

“My salary may be deducted. All this is adding to my anxiety.”

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