India has passed more than 20 million COVID-19 cases, but the government says cases are “slowing down”.
On Tuesday, the country recorded more than 355,000 cases, a decrease from the daily cases, which amounted to more than 400,000 cases on April 30.
But test numbers also fell, raising concerns that the real number in India is much higher.
However, case numbers are steadily declining in Maharashtra, which has been the driving force behind the second wave since early April.
The lack of oxygen has shown no signs of abating, and people in several cities where infections are common, including the capital, Delhi, are struggling for treatment.
Its hospitals are overwhelmed by the second wave in India, fueled by lax safety measures, public festivals and massive election rallies. Delays in examination, diagnosis, and treatment, as well as a shortage of intensive care beds for critical cases and vital medicines, have resulted in a high death rate as well.
So far, the number of deaths due to the Corona virus in the country has reached more than 222,000. But experts say that the death toll in India is considerably less than what is reported, as the official figures do not match what people are witnessing on the ground, from long queues in crematoriums, individual and collective, and cities that no longer find a place to bury the dead or cremate them.
A number of states imposed restrictions that included complete closures and nightly curfews. The northern state of Bihar, which has nearly 13,000 daily infections in recent days, announced a complete closure, during which only basic services, such as government offices, grocery stores and hospitals, are open.
Is the infection really slowing down?
While the number of daily cases in India appears to have decreased, it is too early to say whether the infection is slowing down.
Because of the delays in conducting examination and official record keeping, experts usually look at the weekly average rather than the daily cases, to get a more accurate picture. On average, cases in India rose last week, but at a slower rate than the previous week.
It is also true that daily cases have decreased, on average, in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and all the states with severe outbreaks.
But the infrequent examination makes it difficult to gauge the significance of these numbers. While the test numbers in Maharashtra have been consistent, the Delhi index has declined in recent weeks.
Another issue, experts say, is insufficient testing. While Uttar Pradesh, one of the worst-affected states, has not recorded any decline in examination numbers, the examination there is much lower than other states.
It is the most populous state in India, home to more than 220 million people and performs about 184,000 tests per million people. Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu, which is home to about 75 million people, carries out more than 300,000 tests per million of its residents.
Health officials said there was “hope” for some relief from the second wave. But Love Agarwal, Secretary of the Health Ministry, said the “gains” were too early and needed to be sustained through “containment measures at the provincial and state levels.”
Experts also say other hotspots are likely to emerge in the coming weeks, as the epidemic spreads across the country.
A struggle for oxygen
The Delhi government has said it wants the military to run the covid-care facilities and intensive care units.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has repeatedly said the city is not getting enough oxygen from the federal government, which allocates oxygen rations to the states.
But federal officials deny there is a shortage, saying the obstacle is transportation.
India produces thousands of tons of oxygen daily, but some experts say the supply crisis comes from a lack of investment in distribution networks.
Delhi hospitals have resorted to sending distress messages on social media to secure supplies. The hours that residents spent queuing to pack portable cans became part of everyday life.
He also urged people in charge to find more sites for cremation, as large numbers of deaths caused by the Coronavirus flooded morgues and crematoriums in the city.
Will the vaccination campaign help in India?
A slow vaccination campaign has exacerbated the crisis.
Since January, India has delivered more than 157 million vaccine doses so far, and is ranked third in the world, after China and the United States. But just over 10 percent of Indias population of 1.4 billion people have received a single dose, and only about 2 percent have received two doses.
India, despite being the largest producer of vaccines in the world, is facing a shortage of supplies. Vaccination rates have decreased, from 3.7 million doses per day, about a month ago to only 1.7 million per day.
The chief executive of the Indian Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, has warned that the shortage will continue for months.
220 million doses are due to be delivered over the next few months, and this will cover only 8 percent of Indias population.
The Indian government is reported to be in talks with Pfizer, which is seeking “urgent approval” for its Covid-19 vaccine.