A ferocious second wave of the coronavirus has left hospitals scrabbling for beds and oxygen as India reports over 3,000 deaths every day.
India may manage to dodge a deadly third wave of the coronavirus if necessary steps are taken, the government’s top scientific adviser said on Friday, two days after asking the country to brace for following spikes in COVID-19 infections.
“If we take strong measures, the third wave may not happen in all the places or indeed anywhere at all. It depends much on how effectively the guidance is implemented at the local level, in the states, in districts and in the cities everywhere,” Dr K VijayRaghavan said.
The comments were a step-down from Wednesday when he said, “Phase 3 (third wave) is inevitable, given the high levels at which this virus is circulating. But it is not clear at what time scale this Phase 3 will occur.”
The current surge in infections seems to be because of the Indian “double mutant” coronavirus and the spread of the UK variant has slowed, he had said, adding that vaccines will need to be updated to tackle the new strains that are spreading the contagion faster.
India’s healthcare system is crumbling under the weight of patients, with hospitals running out of beds and medical oxygen. Morgues and crematoriums can not handle the number of dead and makeshift funeral pyres burn in parks and car parks.
The country reported another record daily rise in coronavirus cases, 4,14,188, on Friday. Deaths from COVID-19 rose by 3,915 to 2,34,083.
Medical experts say the real extent of COVID-19 in India is five to 10 times the official tallies.
Since the start of the pandemic, it has reported 2.1 crore cases and 2,34,083 deaths. It currently has 36 lakh active cases.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been widely criticised for not acting sooner to suppress the second wave, after religious festivals and political rallies drew tens of thousands of people in recent weeks and became “super spreader” events.
His government has also been criticised for lifting social restrictions too soon following the first wave and for delays in the country’s vaccination programme, which medical experts say is India’s only hope of controlling the second COVID-19 wave.
While India is the world’s biggest vaccine maker, it is struggling to produce and distribute enough doses to stem the wave of COVID-19.
PM Modi has stressed that Indian states must keep up vaccination rates. Although the country has administered at least 15.7 crore vaccine doses, its rate of inoculation has fallen sharply in recent days.