NEW DELHI – India’s COVID-19 cases have increased 13-fold in just two months, a vicious second wave propelled by an open disregard for security protocols in much of the vast country.
Electoral demonstrations led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other important people, as well as crowded festivals and religious gatherings, have characterized the record revival of the new coronavirus.
After dropping the first affliction at the end of last year, Indian leaders have abandoned guard. By allowing or even encouraging dangerous behavior, they have underestimated the virus, reopening the economy too soon and too widely, experts say.
With daily infections hitting a record 127,000 on Thursday, the highest in the world and the third-highest on the week this week by more than 100,000, the third hardest country is ahead of its peak in mid-September of around 98,000. almost daily.
Days after the health minister declared India’s COVID-19 fire contained in late January, Mumbai has reopened its massive suburban train network and authorities have left tens of thousands of visitors in stadiums. for international cricket matches.
Many of the South Asian nation’s 1.35 billion people ignored masks and social detachment, while politicians including Modi and Interior Minister Amit Shah greeted hundreds of thousands of supporters largely without masks at the demonstrations. electoral.
When skin infections dropped below 10,000 in early February, some experts predicted that India would see only a modest second wave at most.
“We were really premature to celebrate,” said University of Michigan epidemiologist Bhramar Mukherjee.
“This is a lesson,” said Mukherjee, who leads a team of researchers modeling India’s fire trajectory. “The really treacherous thing about this virus is how quietly it launches its steps. When you see the houses and the dead, the damage is done.”
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told officials in 11 of the states hardest hit this week that “people have largely given up on COVID-appropriate behavior, it has become very dark” as activity resumes.
“There have been elections, religious meetings, reopening of offices, many people traveling, attending social services, not following the rules, few masks in functions such as weddings, even on buses and crowded trains,” he said. in a video conference.
Vardhan himself has been criticized for tweeting dozens of images and videos of party demonstrations.
With 12.9 million cases, India remains close to Brazil and well below the United States, which has recorded more than 30 million infections. COVID-19 deaths in India are over 166,000, although its fatality rate is one of the lowest in the world, in part due to its relatively young population.
New Zealand on Thursday suspended entry for all travelers from India, including its citizens, for about two weeks.
Authorities have put some brakes on the movement, but federal and industrial ministers have warned against another national shutdown. Last year’s borders have shattered the economy and wiped out millions of jobless poor.
However, a growing number of states are imposing local borders, including night shelters in mega-cities like Delhi and Mumbai.
Authorities have refused to call it a weekly Hindu festival, held once every 12 years on the banks of the Ganga River in northern Uttarakhand.
A successfully managed Mahakumbh, which is expected to attract millions of devotees, is considered crucial to Modi’s Indian nationalist party campaign in the state, which will vote next year.
Political parties have widely exploited COVID-19 rules during campaigns for multi-stage elections in four major states and one federal territory that began last month.
“Political leaders are themselves responsible” for the renaissance by allowing packed demonstrations, said Subhash Salunke, a former World Health Organization official advising the worst-hit state, Maharashtra. “The upward trend will be here for another couple of weeks.”
Shashank Tripathi, a professor at the Infectious Diseases Research Center of the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, said that even though most people are eventually exposed to the virus, “there is no guarantee that it will not return. and it will infect you again. ”
“The lesson is the same for any country.”