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‘Second wave peak nowhere in sight’

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on April 23, 2021

Covid patients in ambulances waiting for admission at Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad on Thursday   -  VIJAY SONEJI

Epidemic surging simultaneously in multiple locations reason for caseload

As India reported the world’s highest-ever daily Covid-19 spike of around 3.14 lakh cases experts cautioned that the peak of the second wave is yet to come.

With hospitals under tremendous stress and severe shortage of beds, medicines, and ventilators, many feel that this situation could have been avoided with some foresight.

“We not only did not anticipate the second wave, but we also neglected our genomic analysis. It is pity that we have the wherewithal, the labs, the people and the expertise, but we just did not care because the number of cases was coming down,” said Jacob T John, clinical virologist and former professor at the Christian Medical College Vellore.

“This is an unforeseen, unimagined kind of surge in the pandemic… despite all my optimism if the numbers are increasing daily we are going to be in much more trouble as it has every potential to get much worse before the situation improves,” said Satyanarayana Mysore, Interventional Pulmonologist at Manipal Hospitals, Bengaluru.

India currently has around 23 lakh active Covid-19 cases. As many as 1,84,657 Indians have died of Covid-19, including 2,104 on Wednesday.

Himanshu Negandhi, an associate professor of epidemiology at Delhi’s Indian Institute of Public Health, said the alarmingly high daily numbers are because of convergence of the epidemic peaking simultaneously in multiple locations.

Giridhar R Babu, professor of epidemiology at the Public Health Foundation of India, said, “Currently looking at several mathematical models, the peak seems to be in the second or third week of May. The issue is that much of it will change, depending on the interventions we will make.”

‘Healthcare workers tired’

But hospitals are stretched. Satyanarayana Mysore said healthcare workers are exhausted, working practically all day and night with just a couple of hours of sleep. “We do not ask for a respite, but what hurts us is that when we finish our work at night, we see people walking around without masks which is very demoralising,” he said.

BS Ajaikumar, Executive Chairman of Bengaluru’s HealthCare Global Enterprises, said the second wave is expected to peak by mid-May. “We are already observing some plateauing in some parts of Maharashtra. I would not say that the infrastructure has collapsed.... it is stressed,” he said.

Rajendra Patel, an epidemiologist with the Gujarat government, said, “We can set up hospitals with 20-50 beds. But the main challenge is manpower. Currently, the staff is under extreme stress due to extended work hours and many have been infected. So, there's a shortage of healthcare workforce. Even after paying extra money, we don't get suitable skilled manpower. We need to address this challenge because even if this wave subsides, we can't rule out a worse third or fourth wave," he said.

‘Cannot take more’

In Mumbai, the epicentre of the Covid onslaught in Maharashtra, many large hospitals are taking up additional space for managing patients who are not critical. “But the system cannot take more,” cautions Gautam Khanna, President of the Association of Hospitals.

Sayan Chakraborty, Consultant, Infectious Diseases AMRI Dhakuria Hospital, said though the severity of the cases is similar to last year, the overall number of cases is rising, indicating that the virus is more infectious now. Apoorwa Verma, 24, a resident doctor at the South-East Central Railway Hospital at Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, said that while the new strain of the virus is dangerous, people are dying mainly because of lack of beds, ventilators, medicines, injectables and insufficient hospital arrangements in the State.

She said her hospital was recently sent a notice by an RT-PCR lab asking them to stop testing as they are having over 4,000 pending tests to be done, a testimony to how the healthcare system is getting choked amid the surge in case.

 

 

With inputs from Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai Bureaus

Published on April 22, 2021

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