Hospitals on the brink, thousands dying on a daily basis, and new variants spreading rapidly across the country – India has emerged as the new epicentre of the global pandemic
(Asian News Hub) – India was hit hard by coronavirus last year, recording one the highest caseloads in the world alongside the US and Brazil. But numbers started declining rapidly after last summer and by January this year, as vaccines started to roll out, the health minister proclaimed the country had reached the end of the pandemic.
But after months with few restrictions, and just as life was starting to look normal again, cases have suddenly exploded, with a tsunami of infections sweeping the country and putting ICUs into what doctors have called a “war-like” situation.
With many other nations making rapid progress on vaccinations, the country is now the global epicentre for the disease, while concerns are mounting about the new variants involved. Doctors in the Indian states facing the worst pressure paint a grim picture, describing a chaotic and overwhelming intake of desperately sick patients.
Loved ones wailing outside hospitals, ambulances queued up with patients, crematoria and graveyards drowning in dead bodies, failed resuscitations and families scrambling for beds, plasma, and even basic medical supplies such as oxygen, stretchers and ventilators.
“Patients are dying suddenly of hypoxia. There are more patients here than the doctors could attend and all the monitoring equipment has been exhausted. We are suffering,” a resident doctor from Mumbai’s state-run Sion hospital tells The Independent, on condition of anonymity.
Maharashtra, the state where Mumbai is located, has for several weeks been painted as an outlier in terms of the new outbreak, but the situation is now no better in the capital Delhi, where Dr Atul Gogoi of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital says ICU beds and even general wards are out of capacity. He says the situation is becoming increasingly difficult with each passing day.
Having to remain “aloof” during this “war-like” fight against the disease is taking its toll, he says. “We are worn out physically as the workload is constantly increasing, [but also] mentally as we regularly deal with emotional breakdowns of elderly people.”
India’s outbreak is worse now than it was at any point last year, with the country registering a series of grim milestones in the past few weeks. As well as overtaking Brazil in total caseload, the country has recorded daily spikes of more than 200,000 new infections over a 48-hour period in the last week.
While there remains insufficient data to attribute the new wave to any one cause, scientists say an indigenous variant of the virus called B.1.617 is likely to be fuelling the flames, coupled with a fatigue with safety precautions that has seen a return to crowding and a reluctance to wear masks across the country.
It may be that multiple more infectious variants are at play here. Testing has shown the presence of the UK’s B.1.1.7, South Africa’s B.1.351 and Brazil’s P1 spreading among the population. These variants have been found in Maharashtra, Punjab, Kerala, Delhi, and Karnataka states, which between them contribute a high proportion of new cases.
However, the greatest concerns swirl around India’s B.1.617, which has been dubbed the “double mutant” variant in media reports, although it actually has 15 mutations from the original virus. This is because it carries two specific and concerning mutations in its spike protein that have cropped up elsewhere during the pandemic – known as E484Q and L452R. It is the first time that these genetic changes have evolved together in a single variant.
With inputs from Independent
Railways spent INR 69.5 lakh to ‘catch rats’ in Lucknow reveals RTI
RTI Query revealed that Lucknow division of Northern Indian Railways spent INR 69.5 Lakh for catching 168 rats, India Today reported.
In a startling revelation, the Lucknow division of Northern Railways in India has spent an unbelievable INR 69.5 lakh (approximately $93,000) between 2020 and 2022 to catch a mere 168 rats. This translates to a staggering INR 23.2 lakh (around $31,000) per year or over INR 41,000 (around $550) for every rodent. The extravagant expenditure on pest control has come to light as a result of an RTI query which had been filed by activist Chandrashekhar Gaur.
According to India Today, the response to Gaur’s RTI application has raised eyebrows and left taxpayers hacing doubts about the effectiveness of resource utilization within the Indian Railways. While pest and rodent control typically fall under the category of primary maintenance, it is extremely essential to dissect the exorbitant expenses which have been incurred by the Lucknow division of Northern Railways.
The information provided in the answer to the RTI inquiry indicates that the Lucknow division spent INR 69.5 lakh between the years 2020 and 2022, yet only 168 rats were actually seized. When these figures are broken down further, they become significantly more baffling. Rats were trapped in numbers ranging from 83 in 2020 to 45 in 2021 to 40 in 2022. The decreasing numbers, in spite of continued spending, highlight the ineffectiveness of the pest control strategy.
The controversy arose after the RTI query which revealed that the division had spent a staggering INR 69.5 lakh. The division’s statement sheds light on the nature of their rat control efforts as well as tries to put the expenses, which appear enormous, into perspective.
According to Railways statement cited by India Today, the Indian Railways went on to provide additional context, highlighting that the expenditure needs to be viewed in the context of the enormous number of coaches they have the responsibility to maintain. With an average of 25,000 coaches addressed every year, the approximate cost for rodent control per coach comes to a just INR 94.
The statement further mentions that this is a “very minimal cost considering the damage and destruction which can be caused by rodents.”
However, it is important to note that the Railways declined to respond to Chandrashekhar Gaur’s question about the cost of damage that was caused by rats, citing that no damage assessment had been carried out. The claim that trapping one rat costs INR 41,000, as was previously reported, is flatly refuted by the Indian Railways division in Lucknow. The information provided has been dismissed as a misrepresentation of reality as well as distortion of facts intended to harm the credibility of Indian Railways, according to the Railways statement.
Thief fails to rob bank, leaves note praising ‘good’ security system
After failing to open the lockers, a criminal recently applauded a bank for its security. On Thursday, August 31, the burglar attempted to break into a bank in Telangana. But he was unable to open the lockers, therefore he was unable to obtain even a single rupee. The robber left a message stating that he was impressed with the security system, “My fingerprints will not be there. Great bank. Please don’t catch me because I couldn’t get a single rupee.
According to reports, the incident occurred on Thursday night at a Telangana branch of Grameen Bank. The staff of the bank found the note when they arrived on Friday morning and realised that there was an attempt to rob the bank. The burglar’s movements were captured on CCTV surveillance cameras, but the thief was cautious enough to cover his face, said police. The police suspect the thief to be a local and not a banker.
The employees of the bank confirmed that all the valuables present in the bank were intact.
Woman’s head crushed by vehicle after she sticks her head out of bus to vomit
In Delhi’s Alipur neighborhood, a 20-year-old lady trying to vomit out of a bus window was killed when her head was crushed by an approaching vehicle while she was traveling to meet her brother in Punjab for Raksha Bandhan, according to police as reported by ANI.
According to the police, the victim was identified as Babli, a resident of Pratapgarh district in Uttar Pradesh.
Police on Wednesday received the information about the incident from the Satyawadi Raja Harish Chandra Hospital (SRHC) hospital in Narela where the victim had been taken in an injured state.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (outer north) Ravi Kumar Singh said that by the time police reached the hospital, the 20-year-old was pronounced dead.
During the investigation, it was revealed that Babli was travelling from Pratapgarh to meet her brother in Ludhiana, Punjab. She had taken a Haryana Roadways bus from Kashmere Gate ISBT and was accompanied by her sister Poonam and brother-in-law Santosh, and their three children.
According to the police, the deceased felt sick near the Alipur area and stuck her head out of the bus window to vomit when an oncoming vehicle crushed her head from the driver’s side.
“A legal action is being taken in the matter. The CCTV footage is also being checked to identify the offending vehicle and its driver,” said the police.
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