By Julia Kemp
Recently, India’s COVID cases have been rising. As of May 17, according to The New York Times, there are a recorded 25,228,900 COVID cases with around 300,000 new cases each day. There have been 278,719 deaths recorded, however researchers say that this official number could be far less than the actual deaths. This recent surge in cases since March of 2021 puzzles scientists as they try to pinpoint the reasoning behind the high infection rate. Researchers in India say that this could be due to many factors, including low availability of healthcare and insufficiency in political will.
While India’s recorded death rate is at an all-time high, this number could be far underestimating the true number of deaths. This can be explained by many Indian civilians’ avoidance of hospitals and tests. Because of the sheer number of cases, many hospitals do not have the space nor the resources to accommodate patients. Many infected people will stay home and try to treat the dangerous virus using home remedies and common cold medications. Another reason for this inaccurate death count is due to the massive amount of bodies, especially in poor rural areas and crowded urban areas. In such areas, COVID risks have not been well communicated, and many bodies are buried without being tested for COVID. In poorer areas of India, because the risks of COVID have not been properly explained, many do not understand the precautions against COVID, such as mask wearing and social distancing, and thus the number of deaths rose, with no resources or space to properly test and bury the bodies.
Chandrakant Lahariya, a medical public policy and health systems expert in New Delhi, explains how throughout history, political parties in India expressed ignorance regarding prioritization of public health. Politicians use a hands-off approach when it comes to public health, and instead leave Indian civilians to take care of their own personal health. The problem with this approach is that many Indian civilians are not aware of the severity of the virus, nor do they understand the preventative measures to take in order to prevent the spread. Additionally, many Indian civilians do not have access to health care, with most Indian hospitals focused on commercialization and profit.
The rising cases and deaths in India is not acceptable, especially when the solution to the problem is action by politicians to educate the public about the risks and the preventative measures of COVID-19, and more availability of healthcare to those in poor areas.