At the beginning of this year, many people in India thought the worst of the pandemic was finished there. But in the last few weeks, any sense of ease has given way to widespread fear. The country is suffering from the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, with people being turned away from full
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At the beginning of this year, many people in India thought the worst of the pandemic was finished there. But in the last few weeks, any sense of ease has given way to widespread fear. The country is suffering from the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, with people being turned away from full hospitals and a scarcity of medical oxygen. How did India, after successfully containing the virus last year, get to this point?Guest: Jeffrey Gettleman, the South Asia bureau chief for The New York Times, based in New Delhi. Sign up here to get The Daily in your inbox each morning. And for an exclusive look at how the biggest stories on our show come together, subscribe to our newsletter. Background reading: In a dispatch from New Delhi, Jeffrey describes the fear of living amid a disease spreading at such scale and speed.Fatalities have been overlooked or downplayed, understating the human toll of the country’s outbreak, which accounts for nearly half of all new cases in a global surge.The new wave of the virus in India will hurt global efforts and vaccine supplies, experts say. And researchers are scrambling to assess whether new coronavirus variants are playing a role. For more information on today’s episode, visit nytimes.com/thedaily. Transcripts of each episode will be made available by the next workday.
Jeffrey. Where in India are you right now? I'm in New Delhi, the capital. And I wonder if you can describe the scene in Delhi at this very moment. It's really unsettling. People are getting sick all across the city. I feel it closing in around me. I know so many people firsthand neighbors, friends, colleagues, people that I see in my daily routines, the guy who sells us milk, All of these people are getting sick and there's just a sense of real unease and fear and a lot of us just aren't going outside. We're really scared to interact with anybody. And across India we're seeing the same thing. This really sharp spike of cases from like 100,000 per day to 200,000 infections per day to 300,000 infections. 350,000 where we're at right now. And that's just the official numbers, A ferocious second wave of coronavirus described by Prime Minister Narendra modi as a storm that has shaken the nation so many people have gotten sick so fast. Hospital. No more bets no more bad still in the hospital. The hospitals are totally full. They're turning away thousands of people, people arriving, ambulances, cars, scooters and auto rickshaws pleading for admission. I had a friend called me the other night late and he had a friend who was very sick with Corona virus. A young guy maybe in his 30s. And my friend was trying to find a hospital for him to go to. He tried every contact he had, he called around himself and they couldn't find a space for this guy and he ended up dying in the back of an ambulance because the hospital would take him. The final few breaths taken by this man came after his brother had begged for oxygen for him for six hours. There's a real scramble for medical oxygen. They're using Air Force planes to airlift oxygen tanks from one part of the country to another. That's like the number one most obvious shortcoming right now. This family brought their mother but saw her die minutes after reaching what they hoped was helped come on up. This hospital is useless. She's shouting. It's really scary. It's very difficult getting help. Makeshift cremation sites like these are springing up to deal with a rising death toll. They're burning bodies in mass cremations and the end result of this is this really grim scene of these cremation grounds and Hinduism cremations are very important. Even if it is night, we will try to finish the last burial father Day because no more trees will keep the body. These cremation grounds are totally overloaded and they're working around the clock and sometimes they're burning 10 2030 bodies at a time. These like mass burnings and it's just exhausting everybody and overloading the system. It's chaos. It's very like a heavy burden on your heart that you don't know who is the next one to go. And what's so striking about what you're describing, Jeffrey is that it's reminiscent of the absolute worst scenes of this pandemic a year ago in places like Wuhan or new york or parts of Italy. And it felt like that really acute phase of the pandemic was supposed to have passed. So help us understand how it's possible that India has gotten to this point this late in the pandemic at a time when so many countries are beginning to really conquer and contain the virus. What is that story? Well, it's sad because India did well in the first wave at the beginning of the pandemic last year, In the spring, there was very few cases here, as the rest of the world was really staggering under this. The government here saw the disease come in toward it and they took swift action and lockdown really early last March and it was a total lockdown for two months. Don't leave your house. I remember once I went out with my kids to go buy some milk around the corner and somebody stuck their head out of the window and yelled, go home. The lockdown was so complete that the entire transportation network was shut down. The train system, which is one of the world's biggest train networks, totally stopped. The government stopped all flights and the entire country was basically for