Surge in COVID cases worrisome

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The numbers are staggering, and they keep rising every day. Since the relaxation of the lockdown, the coronavirus infections have increased sharply across the country, more so in the big urban centres. At well over 4.25 lakh cases, with over 15,000 increasing daily, India is still some distance away from the US and Brazil. But that is no reason to celebrate. In all likelihood, the disproportionately low number of cases in relation to the total population is due to a very low level of testing. We just don’t have enough testing facilities even in big metros such as Delhi and Mumbai. With less than a thousand testing facilities in the country, more than half of them in the public sector, our actual testing falls woefully short of the frightening dimensions of the pandemic. At the peak of the pandemic, the United Kingdom had routinely carried out over one lakh tests daily. So bad is our situation that even in the national capital you have to wait for weeks for testing. Besides, the local government was never enthusiastic about testing lest larger numbers of infections reflect poorly on its performance. Seeing the spurt in cases, the central government stepped in, with Home Minister Amit Shah actively monitoring the situation along with Kejriwal and the Delhi Lt. Governor. The situation could still go out of control the way numbers are rising every day. With over 62,000 cases on June 24, Delhi could soon overtake Mumbai’s tally of over 67,000 cases, given that in the prior week Mumbai had registered about 8,000 cases while Delhi had 18,000 cases. The Delhi Government was also suppressing the number of fatalities owing to the coronavirus, blaming those on comorbidities.

Once it was confronted by unaccounted figures by the local municipal bodies, it reluctantly added these to the official corona column. Belatedly, the local sports stadiums, a few hotels, private nursing homes, etc., are being converted into COVID-19 hospitals, but even these are posing manpower and equipment problems. Worse, should the number of infections rise as projected, these would not be enough. People prefer to be treated at home rather than putting up with neglect and apathy in public hospitals. Private hospitals, on the other hand, fleece the corona patients, charging up to Rs. 1 lakh a day for a ventilator room. Advanced countries have suffered a much higher proportion of fatalities than the developing countries. The number of deaths in the US is over 1.15 lakhs; in Brazil over 60,000. In India the death toll from the virus is below 15,000. On average, the number of deaths in India due to old age, sickness or other factors is about 26,000 daily. Coronavirus has claimed about 425-odd victims every day. Despite poor healthcare facilities, low levels of personal and civic hygiene, widespread ignorance and illiteracy, the pandemic has not been as harsh in India, as it has been in rich countries. People have no clue who to thank, but thus far we have got away without losing a very large number of lives, though the economic disruption is a different matter altogether.

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