The graphs show the severity of the second wave

The graphs show the severity of the second wave

A woman wearing a protective mask walks past graffiti, amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), on a street in Mumbai, India, March 30, 2021.

Francis Mascarenhas | Reuters

India’s second wave of Covid-19 infections shows no signs of slowing down as the country’s overwhelmed health system faces supply shortages of hospital beds, oxygen, drugs and vaccines.

The World Health Organization said last week that one in three new cases of coronavirus worldwide were reported in India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi The government is criticized for allowing large crowds to gather for religious festivals and election rallies in various parts of the country. Commentators have said that the mass gatherings likely transformed into super spreader events.

Cases of the second wave began to increase in February, when India reported an average of around 10,000 infections per day. But the situation gradually worsened in April, ending the month by repeatedly setting new world records for daily cases. India started May with reporting over 400,000 new cases.

Nearly 7 million cases have been reported for the month, a whopping share of the more than 19 million India has recorded during the entire pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Scientists say the spike in cases is in part due to variants of the coronavirus circulating in India at the moment.

“There is at least the emergence of two important dominant variants, one is a British variant, the other is an Indian variant,” Manoj Murhekar, director of the National Epidemiology Institute, told CNBC on Friday. Chennai.

Indian government reportedly said last month that 80% of cases in Punjab were due to the highly contagious British variant known as B.1.1.7.

Meanwhile, the Indian variant is known as B.1.617 and has several sublines with slightly different characteristic mutations. WHO has classified it as a variant of interest in its epidemiological update on the pandemic last week.

Maharashtra, home to India’s financial capital, Mumbai, is the hardest hit state and also the epicenter of the second wave.

India’s richest state entered a lockout in mid-April to break the chain of transmission. Reports says The state government of Maharashtra extended the restrictions until May 15.

Murhekar told CNBC that at present, very little is known about the proportion of infected cases due to a variant. He said India needs to step up its monitoring of variants so that there is meaningful data from every region and state on the variants circulating in each.

Since launching its mass vaccination campaign in January, India has administered more than 154 million doses of the vaccine as of April 30. according to government data.

This implies that just over 10% of the population has received at least one of the two required blows. But the percentage of people who have completed their vaccinations is only about 2% of the total population, to about 27.9 million in April.

From May, India opens vaccination to anyone aged 18 and over.

Murhekar said the kind of herd immunity India needs to reduce transmission can only be achieved through vaccination.

“It will take several days and months, basically, until we have a critical mass, which is vaccinated against Covid,” he added.

But the country faces vaccine shortages and several states have would be out of stock.

The supply crunch is expected to last until July, according to the CEO of India’s largest vaccine maker, Serum Institute, which produces AstraZeneca shoot. Adar Poonawalla recently told the Financial Times that his company is expected to increase its vaccine production capacity from about 60 million to 70 million doses per month to 100 million.

The other vaccine administered is Covaxin from Bharat Biotech.

New Delhi recently approved the Russian-developed Sputnik V and licensed vaccines manufactured abroad that have received emergency approval by the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, Japan and agencies listed by the World Health Organization.

CNBC’s Nate Rattner contributed to this report.

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