India has seen an unprecedented increase in coronavirus cases in the past few weeks. The capital, New Delhi, was placed in lockdown for a week from Monday, when a new record for the country racked up 273,810 new cases. India has recorded more than 15m cases of Covid-19, second only to the US. Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, described on Tuesday the situation as “like being hit by a storm”. This occurs after the health minister, Harsh Vardhan, said in March that the country had entered the “endgame” of the virus. The discovery of a new variant of Covid-19 in India – known as B.1.617 – has caused widespread concern. It has two spike proteins rather than one and is believed to be more transmissible than previous strains. The rise in case numbers has been exponential in the second wave. India has been consistently reporting more than 150,000 cases for days now.
Now there is also a severe shortage of medical supplies in hospitals, especially oxygen. Laboratories were unprepared for the steep rise in demand for testing. The country launched a massive vaccination program but it has not been enough. Heartbreaking stories are coming in from across India as a second Covid wave wreaks havoc. Big religious gatherings, the reopening of most public places and crowded election rallies are being blamed.