The devastating second wave of Covid-19 sweeping across India presents its government with its most acute health crisis since independence in 1947. Driven by a more virulent mutant of the coronavirus, infections have been rising exponentially since March and have crossed 300,000 per day, more than three times the peak recorded during the first wave last September. The country’s health infrastructure is overwhelmed, with critical shortages of hospital beds, oxygen, ventilators and therapeutic drugs. Many cities, including the capital New Delhi and the financial hub Mumbai, have been forced to impose lockdowns.
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that these alarming outcomes are the result of a lack of preparedness and forward planning – and also mixed messaging from political leaders. After the first wave of Covid-19 subsided in January, the Indian authorities did not anticipate, as many medical professionals had warned, that it would be followed by another, as many other countries had experienced.