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COVID-19 chaos: How states got it all wrong about second wave


A top virologist said the UK variant should have been a red flag for India. However, in the early days of the second wave, the Maharashtra health minister was in denial and Karnataka carried on with its bypolls. Delhi's CM seemed to believe that the second wave was behind them. Now they are paying the price and topping the infamous COVID charts.

COVID-19 chaos: How states got it all wrong about second wave
Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi accounted for 72.19 percent of the total new COVID-19 cases in the country. They are among the top 10 most affected states and Union Territories during the second wave of the pandemic. This was revealed by Union Health Ministry data released on May 6.
According to scientists and public health experts, the alarming situation in many large states during the second surge could have been avoided. India has witnessed well over three lakh daily new cases of COVID-19 for many consecutive days, with numbers even going past the four lakh mark in the past few days.
Dr T. Jacob John, former professor and head of the department of clinical virology and microbiology at Chennai Christian College in Vellore, in an interview told India Today that the “so-called UK variant was detected in September 2020,” and “that was an alert for India to be on guard.”
The top virologist, in the interview, said the government and scientific community did not expect a second wave “or a wave of this magnitude” so soon as the first wave was a one-year affair.
Here’s a look at what went wrong for the governments of the three most badly-hit states, which failed to anticipate the intensity of the deadly second wave.
Maharashtra has been India’s worst-affected state since the first wave. As of May 6, the state had 49.4 lakh cases, with 62,194 new infections added in the past 24 hours.
According to the Maharashtra Health Department, the second wave got underway from February 12. The Maharashtra government imposed a 15-day state-wide lockdown from April 12. Meanwhile, the hospitals were overwhelmed by the unprecedented number of cases.
In his speech on April 2, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had accepted that there might be a shortage of healthcare infrastructure if coronavirus cases continued to rise.
However, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope in early November 2020 had claimed that a second wave of COVID-19 was unlikely, and the state was ready to tackle any such situation.
Ironically, Maharashtra recorded 20,52,905 cases in 11 months between March 9, 2020 and February 11, 2021. But in the first 72 days of the second wave -- between February 12 and April 25 -- the state witnessed 21,74,654 cases. Nearly70 percent of these infections were reported from Tier II and Tier III cities as well as from villages.
Karnataka Health Minister Dr K. Sudhakar had on March 21 sought people’s cooperation. “We all will be responsible for the aftermath if the government and people do not respond to experts’ reports,” Sudhakar had said.
Around two months down the line, Karnataka has become the state with the fastest-growing rate of infections after Maharashtra. On May 6, the state reported a total of 17.9 lakh active COVID-19 cases. It added 49,058 new cases in the past 24 hours.
During the second wave of the pandemic, Karnataka also witnessed bypolls in two Assembly segments of Maski and Basavakalyan, besides the Belgaum Lok Sabha seat. Interestingly, Maski’s BJP candidate, Pratapgouda Patil -- who had recently tested positive for the COVID-19 -- exercised his franchise in a PPE at a polling booth in Killa.
In October 2020, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had declared that Delhi had overcome the peak in its second wave of the COVID-19.
"Delhi hit the peak of the second wave of COVID-19 on September 17 when 4,500 cases were reported. The situation has been controlled to a large extent," he had said.
Kejriwal was happy with the fact that 10,000 beds were vacant in Delhi in October last year, while now Delhi is struggling with the shortage of hospital beds and oxygen. There have been several reports of people dying or not getting admitted to hospitals due to lack of oxygen.
Delhi reported ups and downs in the number of COVID-19 cases, even before the double mutant coronavirus, which is considered to be one of the causes of the present surge, was detected.
After reporting its first case in March 2020, the daily infections continued to rise till July-August before coming down and rising again till September-October.
This government’s attention was diverted to other incidents like the farmers protest from the ongoing COVID crisis, despite the scientific community ringing alarm bells.
As of May 6, Delhi had 12.7 lakh active coronavirus cases with 19,133 new infections recorded in the last 24 hours.

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