The Stream

Can India survive coronavirus?

On Monday, April 26 at 19:30 GMT:
Hundreds of thousands of fresh COVID-19 cases in India are overwhelming hospitals, as state and local authorities re-impose restrictions to check the country’s most serious outbreak yet of coronavirus infections.

The number of deaths is increasing day-on-day, with 2,812 deaths in 24 hours announced on Sunday. More than 195,000 people across the country have now died due to COVID-19. But there is little sign that national, state and local authorities are succeeding in slowing a devastating second coronavirus wave that people say is being undercounted.

Tens of thousands of people badly stricken by the virus have faced a dire struggle to get hospital treatment. Test kits are in short supply and bureaucratic hurdles are frustrating people’s efforts to get prompt medical attention. In one case that trended on Indian social media, a critically-ill journalist in Lucknow live-tweeted about his struggle to get admitted to hospital as his oxygen levels plunged. He died after state officials failed to respond to his family’s calls for help. Hospitals across India are now running out of beds.

As case numbers and deaths continue to rise, it has emerged that India’s COVID-19 taskforce did not meet in February and March. And mixed government messaging on how to tackle the rising tide of cases and deaths is exacerbating the crisis. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has faced widespread criticism by citizens and opposition politicians, on April 20 said the latest wave of infections “has come like a storm”, but added that lockdown measures should only be used by states as “the last resort”. As positive COVID-19 case numbers mounted at the site of the Kumbh Mela in Uttarakhand state, Modi called for people to observe the weeks-long Hindu festival in a “symbolic” manner – several days after tens thousands of people first arrived at the Ganges River.

Modi had earlier applauded the high turnout of BJP supporters attending one of his speeches in the election-bound state of West Bengal. While leaders from the Indian National Congress and Trinamool have either cancelled or dramatically reduced attendance limits at campaign meetings across the state, the BJP has set an attendance cap of 500 people for its scheduled events. The chief minister of Maharashtra, one of the states hardest-hit by the second wave, alleges Modi is preoccupied with the West Bengal election as coronavirus runs out of control.

As India faces the challenges of flattening the curve while trying to monitor new variants and revive a vaccination drive that has lagged in recent weeks, we’ll ask how people are coping.

In this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Vidya Krishnan, @VidyaKrishnan
Global health journalist

Dr Kamna Kakkar, @drkamnakakkar

Syed Zafar Islam, @syedzafarBJP
National Spokesperson, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)