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India Covid: hospitals overwhelmed

Episode 210429 / 29 Apr 2021

The story

India reported a figure of 200,000 coronavirus deaths, with the pressure on many hospitals showing no sign of stopping during a surging second wave.

Useful vocabulary

surging – increasing rapidly

fatalities
– deaths

cases
– examples of something

critically – extremely or seriously

makeshift – something temporary that is low quality

pyres – piles of wood for burning bodies

variant – something different to other similar things

transmissible – has the ability to spread

jab – dose of vaccine

shortages – lack or deficit of

batch – group or amount of

doses – measured amounts of medicine

crashed – stopped working

infrastructure – services and systems of a country

pledged – promised

readying – preparing 

Questions about the story...

1. How many new infections have there been in India every day in the past week?

2. What have The WHO said about the B.1.617 variant?

3. How many people have so far received their first dose of vaccine?

4. What has Prime Minister Narendra Modi been accused of?

5. What have experts said regarding the effects of foreign aid?

More about the story…

What has happened?
While the figure of 200,000 coronavirus deaths has been reported, the real number of fatalities is believed to be far higher. There have been at least 300,000 new infections every day in the past week. In total, over 17.9 million cases have been registered. Oxygen supplies also remain critically low countrywide and crematoriums are operating through the night, with makeshift pyres in car parks.

There were nearly 5.7 million new cases worldwide last week according to The World Health Organization’s (WHO) report. India accounts for 38% of them. The WHO said that the B.1.617 variant of the virus seen in India has a higher growth rate than other variants in the country, which suggests it is more transmissible.

Are people getting vaccinations?
India is carrying out the world's biggest vaccination drive, but less than 10% of the population has so far received a first jab. There are concerns about meeting demand. The US is helping India with the raw materials it needs to make vaccines after the Serum Institute of India, India's biggest vaccine producer, complained of shortages of specialised imports from the US. Meanwhile, according to The New Indian Express, the first batch of the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, is set to arrive in India on 1 May. It has not yet been revealed how many doses will be delivered.

A government website where people can register for vaccinations crashed soon after it launched on Wednesday, as tens of thousands of people tried to access it.

What is the Indian government doing?
India is due to hold state elections, and there is increasing anger towards both state authorities and the central government for the handling of the pandemic. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of ignoring scientific warnings to take part in election rallies and permitting a massive Hindu festival to take place in northern India.

The prime minister said he had held three meetings on Tuesday to discuss ways to increase oxygen capacities and medical infrastructure. Ideas include the use of trains and military aircraft to speed up transport of oxygen supplies.

What international help has there been?
Foreign aid has started to arrive from the UK and Singapore. Russia, New Zealand and France have pledged to send emergency medical equipment and Pakistan and China have promised help. On Thursday, the US said it would start delivering supplies worth over $100m, in addition to individual US states and private companies also readying oxygen, equipment, and supplies for Indian hospitals. However, experts say the aid will only have a limited effect in a nation that has a population of 1.3 billion.

Find out more from the original BBC news report.

The answers

1. How many new infections have there been in India every day in the past week?
There have been at least 300,000 new infections every day in the past week. In total, over 17.9 million cases have been registered.

2. What have The WHO said about the B.1.617 variant?
The WHO said that the B.1.617 variant of the virus seen in India has a higher growth rate than other variants in the country, which suggests it is more transmissible.

3. How many people have so far received their first dose of vaccine?
India is carrying out the world's biggest vaccination drive, but less than 10% of the population has so far received a first jab.

4. What has Prime Minister Narendra Modi been accused of?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of ignoring scientific warnings to take part in election rallies and permitting a massive Hindu festival to take place in northern India.

5. What have experts said regarding the effects of foreign aid?
Experts say the aid will only have a limited effect in a nation that has a population of 1.3 billion.

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