The Indian prime minister’s overconfidence lies behind the country’s disastrous Covid-19 response
Political hubris met pandemic reality in India this week. At the beginning of March, the Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi claimed the country was in Covid-19’s “endgame”. India is now in a living hell. A new “double mutant” variant, named B.1.617, has emerged in a devastating coronavirus second wave which has seen hospitals run out of beds and oxygen. Mortuaries are so full that bodies are left to decompose at home. Charities warn that the dead risk being left on the streets.
On Friday India recorded 332,730 new Sars‑CoV‑2 infections, the highest one-day increase in cases worldwide for the second day in a row. More than 2,200 deaths were recorded in the previous 24 hours. Nations have either banned flights from India, suggested avoiding travelling there or insisted visitors quarantine on their return. Yet little more than six weeks ago, Mr Modi, with not even 1% of the population vaccinated, declared that the country was the “world’s pharmacy” and signalled that pre-pandemic life could resume. Superspreading took place when thousands filled cricket stadiums and millions of Hindus took a dip in the Ganges during the Kumbh Mela festival.
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