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The pandemic has landed India on the brink of collapse

A devastating humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the country of 1.36 billion as it battles against a record-breaking wave of Covid-19 that’s overwhelmed hospitals already working at full capacity.

Only now is the world beginning to understand exactly how seriously a new wave of Covid-19 is ravaging India and its 1.36 billion residents.

During the last fortnight, the second-most populous country on Earth has seen cases surge to an incomprehensible level, one that even local medical professionals could not predict. It is now the global epicentre of the pandemic.

At present, there are more than 16 million Indians reported to be suffering from Coronavirus, with 330,000 of these cases recorded on Sunday alone, which is comparable to the US at its peak.

The numbers, however, are thought to be considerably higher than what has been documented so far.

A person sits on the ground clutching wood at a cremation ground in New Delhi, India

While the test positivity rate is currently around 18% – well above the WHO threshold of 10% – there are concerns that positive cases are being missed because of a lack of testing capacity and high-quality real-time data that gives an informed picture of the tragedies taking place.

Today, the death toll hit 200,000. It’s a catastrophically high figure that’s rising on a steep trajectory.

This is largely due to ICUs being completely overwhelmed, a critical vaccine shortage, and the extremely limited availability of necessary oxygen supplies that’s left Indians gasping for their last breaths in crowded streets and at the gates of hospitals already bursting at the seams.

‘People are watching their loved ones die while waiting for a hospital bed and then they aren’t even given proper burial rights,’ explains an Instagram post urging for immediate collective action. ‘Patients are being confined, two to a bed. They’re the lucky ones.’

People prepare funeral pyres for a mass cremation in New Delhi, India

Working at full capacity, no healthcare system can cope with this deluge of patients and the dire circumstances have amounted in round-the-clock mass cremations.

Stories of this are numerous, with harrowing scenes of bodies burning on pyres across India’s cities beginning to circulate online.

In Delhi, workers have been forced to build makeshift crematoriums in parks and other empty spaces. There is no doubt that a devastating humanitarian crisis is unfolding, one so calamitous that it provides insight into what full-blown biological warfare looks like.

It’s set to push India’s economy back twenty years and is a sharp reminder of the importance of strategic policy and a healthy balance of power to encourage stability and peace.

An aerial view of cremations in New Delhi, India

‘India encapsulates over 15,000 years of recorded human history and has endured everything from famine to invasion to colonisation,’ continues the post.

‘We might be at the end. This might be the thing that does us in.’

But what exactly has happened to land India on the brink of collapse? According to The Conversation, a combination of super-spreading events and the emergence of a double mutation strain that’s resistant to established vaccines.

The B1617 variant has put the government at risk of ‘flying blind,’ unable to identify hot spots, plan services, and optimally guide the response.

Relatives wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) mourn next to the body of a relative in New Delhi, India

‘This is the devastation they warned of when anti-maskers were out protesting the minor inconvenience of covering their face in public,’ finishes the post.

‘Now, there is no plan. Modi’s government has failed us, thrown its hands up, and passed the baton elsewhere so that other countries are challenged with saving us from becoming an emergency state.’

Fortunately, several countries have responded to this call-for-aid, including India’s political rivals China and Pakistan.

Amid expressions of solidarity from world leaders, many are in the process of mobilising to send much needed consignments.

Earlier this week, Germany sent 23 mobile oxygen generation plants for use in military units tending to Covid-19 patients; Pakistan offered to provide relief support in the form of ventilators, digital X ray machines, and PPEs; and the US outlined plans to lift the ban on raw materials for vaccine production and redirect its stockpile of AstraZeneca doses to India. Additionally, the UK has rushed 140 ventilators and 495 oxygen generators to Delhi, according to The Guardian.

Family members sit next to the burning funeral pyres in New Delhi, India

‘I am determined to make sure that the UK does everything it can to support the international community in the global fight against pandemic,’ said Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a statement.

‘Britain stands side by side with India as a friend and partner.’

These nations are stepping up not solely because it is the right thing to do, but also because uncontrolled outbreaks (take Brazil, for example) will have global implications and put our path out of the pandemic under grave threat. If guards are let down, a situation of this nature can happen anywhere which is why it’s essential that every single person on the planet knows they have a role to play.

For this reason, though governments are doing what they can to help, here’s a list of what you personally can do as well. It involves donating to charities such as Action Aid, Give India, and Water Aid, as well as individual crowdfunding initiatives like this Google Doc compiled by activists.

And, given that sharing knowledge is one of the most important tools we have, don’t hesitate to spread the word on social media. You never know who you might incentivise to take action.