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Opinion | How governments failed to anticipate the full brunt of the second pandemic wave

Relatives of Covid patients are being forced to buy vital medicines in black market, there are long queues for lab tests, oxygen cylinders and ventilators are not available. There was this heart wrenching video of a four-year-old boy pushing a stretcher carrying his father, while his mother was dragging the stretcher from the other hand, inside a hospital. There were no ward boys to help.

Rajat Sharma Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive
New Delhi Updated on: April 28, 2021 15:46 IST
Opinion | How governments failed to anticipate the full
Image Source : INDIA TV

Opinion | How governments failed to anticipate the full brunt of the second pandemic wave

With 3,293 Covid-related deaths and 3,60,960  fresh cases reported from across India on Wednesday, the overall pandemic scenario is grim. People are dying because of lack of oxygen, ventilators, medicines and hospital beds. The situation in Delhi-NCR and many parts of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana is acute.

 
Relatives of Covid patients are being forced to buy vital medicines in black market, there are long queues for lab tests, oxygen cylinders and ventilators are not available. There was this heart wrenching video of a four-year-old boy pushing a stretcher carrying his father, while his mother was dragging the stretcher from the other hand, inside a hospital. There were no ward boys to help.
 
While the Centre and state governments claim that there is no shortage of hospital beds, oxygen and medicines, ground reports from India TV reporters prove otherwise. There are no beds, no oxygen and no medicines for Covid patients writhing in agony outside hospitals. Family members are running from pillar to post in search of oxygen and beds in 40 degree Celsius heat. On the other hand, there are mischievous people who have already ‘grabbed’ hospital beds, cornered stocks of medicines that they do not require, selling medicines and oxygen cylinders at exorbitant prices and fleecing people of their hard-earned money.
 
Official statistics of fresh Covid cases and death figures are being under reported. The CEO of a  leading Covid testing agency has complained that he had got phone calls from local district officials not to report ‘positive’ Covid tests. In Mumbai and Delhi, the figures of fresh Covid cases are being deliberately showed on the lower side, simply because RT-PCR tests have been scaled down to hide figures. The ground reality is that one out of every three persons tested in Delhi are being found ‘positive’. On Monday, only 57,600 tests were conducted in Delhi out of which 20,200 were found positive. Compare this with 1,02,460 tests conducted in Delhi on April 13, and only 13,468 were found ‘positive’. It means, the positivity rate in Delhi was only 12 per cent on April 13, but now it has jumped to more than 35 per cent.
 
Delhi High Court has pulled up the state government for failing to cope with the pandemic and in providing hospital beds to patients. The High Court has observed that the Delhi government has failed to monitor oxygen distribution to hospitals and is unable to do anything when large stocks of vital medicines are being hoarded. The High Court observed: “Set your house in order. Enough is enough. If you can’t, we will ask the central government officers to take over. We can’t let people die like this”.
 
The High Court also remarked: “You are just passing orders, instructions as if you are living in a completely different world. You don’t know the ground reality….Telling that patients can’t have Remdesivir at home under medical supervision, appears to be absolutely wrong, it seems like taking away that man’s life”.
 
On Tuesday night, Delhi government withdrew its order to set aside 100 rooms at the 5-star Ashok Hotel for exclusive Covid care for judges, judicial officers and their family members, after the Delhi High Court said it never made any such request.  The High Court said, “we have lost two judicial officers. All that we wanted was in case they needed hospitalization, there should be facility available. But is projected that we wanted a 100-bedded facility…You are passing orders left, right and centre.”
 
The Delhi High Court’s anger is justified. The state government has failed in providing beds, oxygen and medicines to Covid patients, and its lawyer was trying to whitewash its negligence in front of the judges. A 500-bed Patel Covid Centre opened in South Delhi on Tuesday, where 150 beds were operational. All these beds were filled up within a few hours. Similarly, the Covid Care Centre run by DRDO in Delhi had 500 beds, all of which are now occupied. Not a single bed is available now. There are long queues of Covid patients outside these centres. There were heart rending visuals of patients huffing for breath while lying  on the road outside these hospitals, waiting for admission.
 
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is now claiming that his government will provide 1200 beds at two places in Delhi: one near Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital, and the other at Ramlila Maidan, but these will be operational only after May 10. The situation is worse in neighbouring Haryana and Ghaziabad, where private hospitals are telling relatives to take away their patients immediately as they have run out of oxygen. There are reports of Haryana government deliberately under reporting Covid cases and deaths.
 
The confusion has been worse confounded by intemperate remarks being made by Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Tuesday. Khattar said, “there is no point making a noise over the number of people who have died as the dead won’t come back to life. We should avoid playing with the data relating to deaths. This is a natural calamity. What can the government do? ” If the chief minister of a state can make such an outrageous remark, one can easily understand how the system is working in Haryana.
 
Our reporter Ruchi Kumar sent visuals of people waiting in long queues for oxygen cylinders outside an oxygen plant, 25 km away from Lucknow. Many of them have been waiting for more than 12 hours in 40-degree Celsius heat. Some of them had slept in the open for the whole night, awaiting their turn. The plant had doubled its capacity from refilling 1,300 to 2,600 cylinders, and is yet unable to cope with the demand.
 
In Beed, Maharashtra, an ambulance van loaded 22 bodies of Covid victims and dumped them at a crematorium. The hospital authorities said, they had only two ambulances, and had sought new ambulances from the government, which did not arrive.
 
Looking at the overall scenario, I can only say: it is not the duty of a government to open its umbrella only when there is a shower. And when it becomes a torrential rain, the government goes out in search of umbrellas. People had expected from their government that it  may have done some forward planning and advance arrangements to meet the full brunt of the pandemic. The governments were found failing on this front. They failed to anticipate the huge pandemic wave. A few weeks ago, the Delhi deputy CM had been blaming Haryana and neighbouring states for obstructing its oxygen supply. Now that oxygen concentrators and medical oxygen are pouring in both from inside and outside India, it has kindled some rays of hope. Had the governments been alert about the oxygen and medicine crisis, they could have averted the large number of deaths that have taken place.
 
I will again appeal to all, above the age of 18 years, to start registering yourselves on CoWin portal for vaccination. Vaccination is a must, and wearing of masks, even inside homes, is necessary to keep you safe from Coronavirus. Your mask will act as a shield to prevent the virus from entering your body.

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