The Indian Covid-19 variant, known as B.1.617, appears to be wreaking havoc in the country. Since 15 April, India has been reporting more than 200,000 cases of the virus per day, with Delhi recently announcing a week-long lockdown after a rise in cases there overwhelmed the local healthcare system.
It is not known why this surge has happened, but it is thought to be because of big events organised in the run-up to elections. President Modi hit the campaign trail, addressing election rallies in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on 30 March, when the upturn of cases began. Large groups and social gatherings during religious festivals have also played a part, as well as the re-opening of public spaces and the easing of lockdown measures since December 2020.
Taking action against the rise in cases
The US, UK, Germany and some other nations have offered support as India’s under-funded healthcare system struggles to cope with the increasing demand for medical oxygen and hospital beds. Britain will do ‘everything it can to alleviate the suffering’, said the UK’s Defense Minister.
The UK is planning to send 600 medical equipment items to India, including ventilators. The country’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said the first of nine plane-loads would arrive in New Delhi on 27 April.
Meanwhile, in India, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced that the Delhi government will provide free Covid-19 vaccinations to people above the age of 18. “We approved the purchase of 13.4 million vaccines,” he said in a virtual press conference on 23 April.
As India battles this new wave of Covid-19 infections, deliveries of Covid-19 vaccines produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII) to lower-income economies participating in the COVAX facility are facing delays.