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  • - [Narrator] Overwhelmed hospitals,

  • people dying on the streets

  • from lack of oxygen and packed crematoriums.

  • This is a snapshot of the COVID-19 crisis in India.

  • In contrast, just a few months ago

  • the prime minister declared victory against the pandemic.

  • (speaking in foreign language)

  • After that, there were political rallies.

  • (speaking in foreign language)

  • Mass gatherings and religious festivals like this one.

  • And then on April 21st, the country reported

  • a record number of COVID-19 cases in a single day.

  • And those numbers kept growing for several weeks.

  • With many health experts saying real numbers

  • are likely much higher.

  • By May 7th, deaths soared past 4,000.

  • As COVID cases in several Western countries

  • have trended lower, the scale of infection in India

  • and a new variant fresh reported there

  • have alarmed the rest of the world.

  • - If you have a huge country like India,

  • that's deep in its own COVID crisis right?

  • That means the pandemic is not gonna end for the world.

  • - [Narrator] Here's how India became

  • the world's COVID hotspot

  • and what that means for the global pandemic.

  • First, we have to go back to early 2020.

  • As much of the world was struggling to contain the virus,

  • India appeared to have things under relative control.

  • (speaking in foreign language)

  • Early on, Modi announced the world's largest lockdown

  • in the country of 1.3 billion people.

  • - He publicly came out multiple times

  • and said we have to pull it together,

  • we have to wear masks, we have to socially distance,

  • there was a lot of respect for COVID restrictions

  • and people were also scared.

  • (speaking in foreign language)

  • - [Narrator] The measures triggered

  • a mass migration of workers

  • trying to get back home from cities.

  • Epidemiologist warned that this movement

  • of people could help spread the virus undetected

  • to other parts of the country.

  • But the number of reported COVID-19 cases

  • remained relatively low, and India's apparent success

  • stood in contrast to some other countries including the US

  • which was reporting more cases than any other nation.

  • Some public health experts said a possible reason

  • for few cases in India could have been

  • the lack of widespread testing.

  • But they also noted that the majority

  • of the population is under 25.

  • And since asymptomatic cases are more common

  • among young people, many may have gone undetected.

  • After a 10 week lockdown India started to ease restrictions

  • and the number of cases started growing

  • with the first peak in September.

  • - [Shan] It was quite bad and the healthcare system

  • was stressed but the hospitals didn't crumble or buckle.

  • And we saw that actually in other parts of the world,

  • it was much worse.

  • - [Narrator] Despite that first surge,

  • by December India's numbers

  • had gone back down and by early 2021

  • life looked like it was returning to normal

  • - [Shan] Stores were back open, they were super packed,

  • restaurants were open filled with people, indoor dining,

  • there were cricket matches again, packed stadiums.

  • Life in Delhi felt like another universe.

  • The US was dealing with another wave,

  • right in December, January

  • - [Narrator] India was doing very well

  • compared to the US or the UK.

  • And that's when Modi talked of the country success

  • in front of other global leaders

  • at the world economic forum.

  • (speaking in foreign language)

  • So what went wrong?

  • Public health experts blame India's ferocious surge

  • on a combination of new factors.

  • The first one, people became more relaxed

  • about COVID safety measures.

  • Many people stopped wearing masks,

  • and there were several crowded gatherings

  • which public health experts say

  • may have been super spreader events

  • including huge political rallies.

  • (speaking in foreign language)

  • April was a key election month and political parties

  • including Modi's BJP party organized events

  • across the West Bangor state.

  • A BJP spokesperson said that no one had anticipated

  • the magnitude of the COVID-19 surge,

  • adding that Modi and other members of his party

  • followed all the safety protocols in place at the time.

  • Right around then, resources to fight the pandemic

  • weren't reinforced or maintained.

  • - Everyone essentially thought that COVID was over

  • by January hospitals were taking down their COVID-19 wards,

  • testing centers that had been started last year

  • were also being dismantled.

  • It's only oxygen plants

  • where they had allocated the budget were never built.

  • - [Narrator] And on top of all of this

  • highly contagious variants that were first identified

  • in the UK and South Africa were circulating in the country.

  • As well as a new variant known as B.1.617

  • that originated in India

  • - The 617 in India, it's a wildly opponent.

  • - [Narrator] The WHO has said preliminary studies

  • indicate that this one may be more contagious

  • than some other variants.

  • And has since been detected in more than 40 countries

  • including the US, UK and France.

  • This has added urgency to the global vaccination race,

  • which has so far helped cases plummet

  • in some of those countries.

  • So, even as the COVID situation has improved

  • in some parts of the West,

  • the fight against the pandemic across the globe

  • is far from over.

  • - A big lesson is just countries can't get complacent.

  • And even if one country is doing well

  • if another country is not doing well in terms of COVID

  • that will affect every other country in the world too.

  • (upbeat music)

- [Narrator] Overwhelmed hospitals,

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How India’s Covid Crisis Got Out of Control | WSJ

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    joey joey posted on 2021/05/30
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