Coronavirus India: COVID-19 puts India on the brink

The surge in India

One in four global COVID-19 infections is reported from India, with the health care system buckling under the weight of a sudden surge

India leads the world in the daily average number of new infections reported, accounting for one in every four infections worldwide each day.

India’s tally of total infections is second only to that of the United States, with experts blaming everything from official complacency to aggressive variants. The government has blamed failure to practise physical distancing.

The second surge of COVID-19 cases in India has swamped hospitals much faster than the first because mutations in the virus mean each patient is infecting many more people than before, epidemiologists and doctors say.

Daily COVID-19 caseload in India, Brazil and United States

Seven-day rolling average of daily cases in Brazil, India and the United States.

Leading India’s surge is the western state of Maharashtra, accounting for 25 percent of the reported infections in the country.

Daily COVID-19 deaths in India

Seven-day rolling average of daily deaths by Indian state since March 14, 2020.

With the major uptick in cases, hospitals have been flooded across the country. Major cities, which have comparatively better healthcare access and testing, are unable to cope under the pressure. Social media has been flooded with people complaining about the lack of beds, oxygen cylinders and drugs, and citizen groups circulating helpline numbers and volunteering support.

Patients suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) get treatment at the casualty ward in Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) hospital, amid the spread of the disease in New Delhi, India April 15, 2021. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo.

Fewer than 100 critical care beds were available in the city of New Delhi, with a population of more than 20 million people, the city’s Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, said on Sunday.

Rise in COVID-19 cases in major Indian cities

Seven-day rolling average of daily cases in major Indian cities since April 1, 2020.

Despite the soaring infections, politicians continued to hold mass rallies across the country for state elections. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi - who has also addressed election rallies in recent weeks - said on Sunday he was suspending all his public rallies in West Bengal, which is in the middle of polls.

In addition to elections, hundreds of thousands of ash-smeared ascetics and devout Hindus jostled to take a dip in the Ganges during the weeks-long “Kumbh Mela” festival, hoping to wash away their sins. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for restraint, saying on Twitter the festival should be kept “symbolic”.

Daily vaccinations

Rolling average of daily number of vaccination doses administered in Brazil, India and the United States till April 18, 2021.

An added burden to the surge is that the number of daily vaccinations has begun to taper off. India’s daily vaccinations peaked at 4.5 million doses on April 5, as its second wave of infections picked up, but have averaged about 3 million a day since and have recently begun to dip.

The Indian government announced that starting May 1, all citizens over 18 can have COVID-19 vaccinations. Facing growing criticism over its handling of the second wave of the pandemic, Modi’s administration said vaccine manufacturers would have to supply 50% of doses to the federal government and the rest to state governments and the open market at a pre-declared price.


Data as of April 19, 2021


Reuters COVID-19 Tracker; State Health Care Bulletins; Our World in Data

Edited by

By Anand Katakam and Gerry Doyle