The World Today for June 22, 2021

NEED TO KNOW

INDIA

Deadly Impatience

The Taj Mahal reopened to visitors recently. Officials closed the 17th-century mausoleum honoring the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his late wife in April during a strict lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Al Jazeera reported. Only 650 tourists will be allowed to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site at a time, however. Around 20,000 people visited the site a day before the pandemic.

Covid-19 claims thousands of lives every day in India, prompting public health experts to call for greater emphasis on mask-wearing and other relatively easy measures to reduce infections. Still, compared to the recent wave of infections and deaths – which peaked at more than 4,500 deaths in a day in May – the number of new cases has declined, and officials have been easing lockdowns. In Delhi, for example, shops and malls have fully reopened while restaurants and commuter trains can operate at 50 percent capacity.

Mall goers were happy even as some experts were uneasy. Only 5 percent of India’s 950 million adults have received vaccines. “Delhi’s top #mall saw a footfall of 19,000 people last weekend as soon as it reopened. Have we gone totally mad?” wrote Ambrish Mithal, a New Delhi doctor, in a tweet quoted in Reuters. “Wait for #COVID19 to explode again – and blame the government, hospitals, country.”

The stories coming out of India personalize a pandemic of epic proportions in the world’s largest democracy. Many logically lead to anger over the country’s corrupt and inadequate health system.

Writing from India in the Washington Post, correspondent Niha Masih movingly described how her mother felt helpless as her grandfather succumbed to Covid-19 but had no time to mourn because she and everyone else, including Masih, was battling the virus, too. “The story of my family – overwhelmed by the virus and failed by a broken system and complacent government – mirrors that of countless others in the country,” Masih wrote.

Speaking to National Public Radio, Jaspreet Singh talked about how he wheeled his father through a packed hospital lobby in order to get the 83-year-old man to his chemotherapy. Nobody was wearing masks. Both the son and father contracted Covid-19 but miraculously managed to survive.

Experiences like those might be one reason that corruption in the health system is now attracting attention. For example, Indian authorities recently announced an investigation into local officials faking coronavirus tests in order to allow pilgrims to attend a massive Hindu festival that led to 100,000 cases of infection throughout the country, the New York Times reported.

The pandemic has changed Indians. How is still to be determined.

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