As May approaches, India is setting new case records nearly every day. In total, the country has now had 18.4 million cases, while total deaths from the virus have topped 205,000.
At its peak in early January, the United States was averaging around 260,000 new cases of COVID-19 a day. Since then, daily new cases have dropped dramatically to the point where the average is now closer to 54,000 and continuing to decline.
By contrast, India had a relatively low mid-pandemic peak at just under 100,000 daily cases back in September 2020. Daily cases slowly but steadily fell until mid-February, when things began to take a turn.
On March 1, daily cases were around 15,000. By April 1, that average was 65,000 and the number has skyrocketed in the weeks since.
COVID-19 in India
As May approaches, India is setting new case records nearly every day. There were 379,459 new cases reported on April 28. In total, the country has now had 18.4 million cases, while total deaths from the virus have topped 205,000.
India’s population, at nearly 1.4 billion people, is four times that of the US (332 million), so just comparing cases doesn’t work. In terms of officially reported cases, India is far behind the US, which has had 32 million since the pandemic began and 573,000 deaths.
But it’s clear that India is currently facing a COVID-19 crisis. As much of the world – including the United Kingdom, Spain and Russia – are administering vaccines and seeing COVID cases drop, India is headed in the wrong direction.
The main reason is that the Indian government has struggled to roll out a successful mass vaccination campaign. The problem is simply an issue of supply: India doesn’t have enough vaccines.
Even in locations where the vaccine is available, the online registration process has been overwhelmed with problems. People have complained on social media that they have been unable to sign up for vaccinations.
Worse than it appears
On top of the already terrible news, medical experts are warning that cases and total deaths from the virus are likely being undercounted. These experts say the country has not been doing enough tests. Also, in rural areas, accessibility to tests is limited.
There is reason to believe that the relatively low numbers back in 2020, which the Indian government celebrated at the time, were in fact wrong. Instead of being the result of successful containment, scarce testing was giving a false sense of security.
All of that suggests that the actual number of total cases could be as much as 500 million more than the official count.
Due to the overwhelmed medical facilities, deaths have also likely been underreported. One estimate puts the real number of Indian deaths due to COVID-19 at roughly one million.
The US offers to help
The administration of US President Joe Biden has been criticized for taking too long to respond to the crisis in India. The Biden administration reportedly was more concerned with reaching herd immunity in the US before investing resources in helping other countries.
Now, though, the administration is getting involved. On April 26, it was reported that the US would be sending India well-needed medical supplies, as well as experts from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The US will also provide funding to help India’s vaccine development.
As of April 27, the US was also working out how it could send India millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Though the US currently has 60 million doses of the vaccine, it has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Those doses are just sitting in storage.
Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have spoken on the phone about the crisis and are working together to end it.
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