India: Dominic Raab pledges to support during 'hour of need'
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It is feared the huge number of infections of the Indian variant could lead to deadly coronavirus mutations. So far 132 cases of the variant have been detected in Britain – around half of which are in London. India was added to the UK’s travel “red list” last Friday, prompting a last-minute scramble for flights to Heathrow. In Delhi, one coronavirus victim was dying every four minutes and in some states the government has allowed families to cremate victims on their own land.
Experts worry that India’s true death toll could be 10 times higher than the official figure because of poor recording of data and mass ad hoc cremations.
And the situation could become even worse, with senior virologists warning the second wave could soon reach a peak of 500,000 infections a day.
Dr Shahid Jameel, director of biosciences at Ashoka University, said modelling suggests that cases will keep rising in the next fortnight.
He said: “You will find two, sometimes three patients in one bed in some government hospitals. I’ve never ever seen anything like this.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “Our hearts go out to the Indian people in the midst of the horrific outbreak.
“We are working closely with the Indian government and we will rapidly deploy support to India’s health care heroes.”
Pakistan has also offered to send medical supplies to its neighbouring country in a gesture of solidarity. It has offered ventilators, oxygen supply kits, digital X-ray machines and PPE.
The offer came after Prime Minister Imran Khan prayed for the “speedy recovery of the Indian people affected by the virus”.
In the past month, daily cases have gone up eight times and deaths by ten times in India. People were arranging stretchers and oxygen cylinders outside hospitals as they desperately pleaded for authorities to take patients in yesterday.
Atul Gogia, a doctor in New Delhi, said: “It’s very hectic, physically, mentally and emotionally. Everything is full, we are overpressed, staff are catching the disease.We do not have places in the emergency room.”
Saswati Sinha, an intensive care doctor in Kolkata, said: “We are already overwhelmed. All of our wards, all of our critical care beds are already at capacity.”
Experts accused India of complacency after just 10,000 new cases a day last winter led authorities to lift restrictions, allowing for the resumption of big gatherings.
In February overconfident Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his nation was “inspiring the world” with their Covid fight.
He said then: “In a country which is home to 18 percent of the world population, that country has saved humanity from a big disaster by containing corona effectively.”
Now one third of the world’s Covid-19 infections are taking place in India.
Global health expert Dr Anant Bhan said: “It’s not the virus variants and mutations which are a key cause of the current rise. It’s the variants of ineptitude and abdication of public health-thinking by our decision makers. We should have been messaging clearly for people to take vaccines in January and February when cases were down.”
At least 20 coronavirus patients died overnight on Friday at New Delhi’s Jaipur Golden Hospital when the “oxygen pressure was low”, the hospital admitted. The High Court in New Delhi, home to 26 million, has ruled that anyone restricting oxygen supplies to hospitals “will be hanged”.
PM Boris Johnson has pledged to aid India in its battle against the devastating surge. He said: “Thanks to the huge efforts of British manufacturers we’re better able to deliver ventilators to other countries.
“But also possibly send therapeutics, dexamethasone, other things. We’ll look at what we can do to help.”
Mr Johnson cancelled a trip to New Delhi where he had hoped to secure millions of doses.While northern states such as Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have quadrupled infection rates from the first wave, others have yet to even suffer the surge.
It means the colossal Indian figures could climb far higher once the whole country – with its population of more than 1.3 billion – comes under pressure.
Prof James Naismith, of Oxford University, said: “Vaccination means we will not ever see such scenes from Covid-19 here.”
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