New Delhi, May 12, 2021: Families are making a beeline outside crematoriums with bodies of Covid-19 victims.
Overwhelmed crematoriums are running out of firewood.
Dozens of bodies of presumably Covid victims are washing up on the banks of River Ganga.
Entire cities are running out of assisted oxygen supply for critically-ill patients.
Getting a decent hospital bed is improbable.
Getting an ICU bed is impossible.
Ambulances, outstripped by the number of Covid-hit people needing to be rushed to hospital, are charging astronomical fares.
Medicine stores are running out of antivirals, O2 canisters and oxymeters.
In India, we have reached a point now where almost everyone knows someone or the other who’s died or has been severely ill.
We’ve reached that stage where pandemic deniers themselves are waking up to the chilling reality of rising infections and deaths.
Amid the peak of the second wave here in India, the widely-cited US-based Covid-19 tracker, IHME (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation), has disclosed that 41% of the Indian population had been infected with the coronavirus as of May 3, 2021.
This estimation means roughly 57 crore Indians out of a total population of about 138 crore either currently have the Covid virus and/or have had the disease in the past.
This figure – which is well more than twice the entire population of neighbouring Pakistan – differs from official government data and numbers disclosed by other widely followed coronavirus trackers, such as US-based Johns Hopkins University.
IHME, a research institute for health data at University of Washington in Seattle, makes its estimations by factoring in resources over and above government data. Hence, it arrives at higher estimations.
Its Covid estimates are widely used by research bodies and governments around the world in framing healthcare policies.
IHME also revealed that as of May 3, the virus was the main cause of fatalities in the country. “Covid-19 was the leading cause of death in India last week (ending May 3) by a big margin, responsible for 2.5 times more deaths than the second-leading cause. India currently has the highest number of daily Covid-19 cases and deaths of any country in the world,” according to a summary on IHME’s website.
As per the US institute, the estimated daily Covid deaths in the week ending May 3 rose to 10,500 per day on average compared to 7,500 the week before.
That’s higher than the government’s official announcement of around 4,000 daily deaths in recent days.
In another worrisome projection, which is much more than government estimates, India is likely to suffer a total of nearly 15 lakh deaths from the respiratory disease by August end.
“Our model projects 14,96,000 cumulative deaths on September 1. This represents 8,42,000 additional deaths from May 3 to September 1,” according to IHME’s India-focused summary. “Daily deaths will peak at 15,430 on May 17.”
IHME also said that Covid-19 has claimed about 6.9 million lives globally – which is twice what the official numbers show. IHME concluded that coronavirus deaths are being significantly underreported in most countries around the world.
“As terrible as the Covid-19 pandemic appears, this analysis shows that the actual toll is significantly worse,” says IHME’s director, Chris Murray. “Understanding the true number of Covid-19 deaths not only helps us appreciate the magnitude of this global crisis, but also provides valuable information to policymakers developing response and recovery plans.”
If this were the first wave, which had hit us last summer, one could have written off these estimates and projections as scaremongering or hype.
But not this time round.