“I Have Never Seen So Many Bodies” – India Reports Record COVID Deaths As Support For Lockdown Grows

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As a team of researchers fears the number of deaths reported in India could double in the coming weeks as the country’s brutal second wave intensifies, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing growing pressure to reimpose the type of strict national lockdown that he used to suppress COVID-19 cases last year in what was hailed as a successful campaign to stamp out the virus.

Many medical experts, opposition leaders and even Supreme Court judges are calling for national restrictions, arguing that a patchwork of state rules is insufficient to quell the rise in infections. Modi said last month that a new lockdown would only be imposed as a last resort. But on Friday, India reported a new daily record of 414,188 confirmed cases and 3,915 additional deaths. The official daily death count has stayed over 3K for the past 10 days. Meanwhile, a mathematical model prepared by Modi’s advisors suggests that the outbreak could soon peak in the coming days, the AP reported.

That brings the total to more than 21.4 million COVID-19 infections and over 234,000 deaths. However, experts have long contended that these numbers dramatically undercount the true total. Some have put the total infections at north of 100MM, making India the worst-hit country in the world by far.

To try and illustrate this, the Washington Post reported yesterday that obituaries reveal many uncounted deaths. WaPo checked crematorium statistics in three cities in three Indian states and found a wide divergence from official tallies. In all of the cases, the statistics released by state authorities appeared to capture only a fraction of actual deaths.

Offering one example, the paper found numerous examples of patients who died while sitting in a car, or an ambulance parked outside a hospital waiting for treatment. Thousands have died this way, and their deaths have been almost totally ignored.

Experts told WaPo that the true scope of the devastation in India may never be known. In Bhopal, a large city in central India, crematorium records bear little resemblance to the official count. Mamtesh Sharma has worked for 20 years for the trust that runs the Bhadbhada crematorium in the city, one of several. :I don’t know about the government’s data but I am telling you what I see with my own eyes,” Sharma told WaPo.

He shared a ledger that he maintains of all the cremations that have taken place since April 11, with a separate column for those conducted according to covid-19 protocols. The fewest number of daily cremations of covid-19 victims was 34; the highest was 100, on April 24. Yet the official figures for such deaths in Bhopal never went above 10 for a single day in that period.

“I have never seen so many dead bodies in my life,” Sharma said. “This second wave is killing people ruthlessly.”

As India’s outbreak appears to spill outside its borders, India’s main opposition leader Rahul Gandhi warned on Friday that unless India’s second wave of COVID is brought under control, it would soon spread to infect the rest of the world.

In a letter, Gandhi called on Modi to prepare for another national lockdown, accelerate a country-wide vaccination program and scientifically track the virus and its mutations, Reuters reported.

In “a globalized and interconnected world”, India has a responsibilty to stop the “explosive” spread of the virus within its own borders, Gandhi said.

“India is home to one out of every six human beings on the planet. The pandemic has demonstrated that our size, genetic diversity and complexity make India fertile ground for the virus to rapidly mutate, transforming itself into a more contagious and more dangerous form,” wrote Gandhi.

“Allowing the uncontrollable spread of the virus in our country will be devastating not only for our people but also for the rest of the world.”

Modi has been widely criticised for not acting sooner to suppress the second wave, after religious festivals and political rallies drew tens of thousands of people in recent weeks and became “super spreader” events.

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