COVID in India, as seen by a doctor who is in the thick of it
I'm currently at work (in a COVID hospital, surprise surprise!), so a fully comprehensive writeup has to wait, but I can outline the situation for you:
1) The initial wave of COVID last year wasn't as bad as projected, and while there K were ICU and ventilator shortages, that's just background noise because there's always a shortage here!
2) The government attempted to impose months long western-style lockdowns, without the social security net that made staying at home for months viable without running out of money. Most of our informal economy isn't amenable to remote work, and people were very rightly feeling screwed.
3) Due to the above, lockdown fatigue set in hard, and mask compliance broke down, first in the rural regions (was it ever a thing there? I only left the city towards the end of the year) and then gradually to urban areas. By the end of the year, people were roaming around without a mask inside the hospital complex I was working at and not getting yelled at because the security guards were maskless too.
4) The vaccination roll-out began, initially for high risk populations and health workers, I got it myself, and managed to live several months without honestly caring much about the pandemic. I was personally surprised by how seriously people in the West were taking it compared to things here.
5) Now here comes the kicker, for the majority, we had about 4 or 5 months of relative normalcy, movie theaters and restaurants open, and most importantly, weddings!
Big Fat Indian Weddings aren't a myth, and for almost a whole year any on the cards had to be postponed due to COVID. This left many a matchmaker with an ulcer, and the moment things looked better, around January and February, weddings were being conducted en-masse due to pent-up demand. (IMO, that's the quickest way of getting a feel for the national pulse, things need to be bad to justify annoying the several hundred people hungrily waiting for the buffet line, and by god if they're given an opportunity, they'll take it!)
Weddings and funerals aside, what set the dominos off was the enormous, and by Jesus, Allah and the 300 million local gods, I do mean ENORMOUS religious pilgrimages that were sanctioned, the most notorious being the Kumbh Mela.
The Kumbh is held once every 12 years, but this time, it was advanced an entire year(!!?!?) citing auspicious astrological signs by the local cabal of astrologers (I wish I could strangle each one personally). There were ~50 million attendees last time, so you can imagine the situation when the population of France gets touchy feely, mostly naked, crowded around each other for a week, the only masks in sight those washed down the river from upstream.
(For context, early last year, a gathering of about a thousand Muslims from out of the country was demonized and hundreds arrested on charges thrown out later, and that was big news)
Our federal government, once eager to commit the politician's fallacy and do something, anything, had been happily resting on its laurels basking in the glow of low case numbers and ongoing vaccination drives was faced with a dilemma, because it was a Hindu-Fundamentalist Government! Can't go cracking down on the religious crowd that's your primary voting demographic can you?
Anyway, the splash built up by all the sweaty fuckers dog piling into the river, society opening up as usual, and larger events like weddings, built up into a wave, that compounded into a tsunami-esque Second Wave that's ongoing now. (We're kinda slow here, some of y'all are on your third smh).
In turn, the government was busy rallying for election season, and had millions show up, with our Prime Minister visiting mask less, and commenting on how he'd never seen a larger crowd..
No preparation was made for a second wave, and the time bought by lockdowns was squandered, with inadequate investment in ventilators and ICU equipment.
Right now, if you've got COVID, you're fucked. Hospitals are full, the Aussie Sky News has footage of people dying in queue just trying to be seen by a doctor, let alone considered for admission.
My family is made up of doctors, and while we've been lucky enough to have been vaccinated, the stockpiles have run short too.
The government has been doing its best to undercount and obfuscate casualties to preserve its image, so it's been up to journalists to identify the massive discrepancy between reported COVID deaths and industrial crematoria melting down from overuse.
Oxygen, oxygen everywhere, not an atom to breathe
Oxygen demand has sky-rocketed, if your facility doesn't have the ability to liquify oxygen on demand, you can't rely on logistical chains anymore. People are desperately looking to find suppliers on social media, so they can hook up solutions themselves once they're inevitably turned away from hospitals. I've had people ask me if mountaineering oxygen cylinders will do in a pinch..
I'm currently working an ICU in a COVID ward, which wasn't part of my job description when I started, and normally would have been grounds to quit, but I happened to speak to friends from the government hospital I previously worked at, and they'd gone full COVID. Similar situations all around, and I've resigned myself to having no other options for the foreseeable future.
So yes, the cow has come home to roost/do cow things, because we didn't close the stable door in time.
Will it get better? Don't know. Will it get worse? Indubitably, there are no near-term solutions in sight.