The World Health Organization (WHO) has said India’s deadly Covid-19 second wave was caused by a “perfect storm” of mass gatherings, low vaccination rates and more contagious variants.
Speaking on Tuesday, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic warned against blaming mutations of the virus as the sole cause of the calamity that has engulfed India in recent weeks, pushing the country’s healthcare system to the brink of collapse, the Guardian reports.
“There are other factors such as recent large gatherings that may have contributed to the rise,” said Jasarevic.
WHO also said unnecessary pressure was being put on India’s healthcare system by people going to hospitals in a panic when they could recover from Covid-19 at home. Jasarevic emphasised that only around 15% of Covid-19 patients require treatment in hospital.
India officially recorded yet another day of over 300,000 new cases on Tuesday and 2,771 new deaths.
However, health experts believe the actual toll is far higher, with populous states such as Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat accused of undercounting Covid-19 fatalities and cases.
Officials are claiming that it is not undercounting that is responsible but wrongly categorising the causes of illness and death.
With Covid testing labs overwhelmed in cities such as Delhi, many with symptoms have been unable to get a test.
The Covid positivity rate in Delhi continued to rise to over 35%, while in the city of Kolkata in West Bengal, a state which is still going through heavily criticised state elections, doctors reported it was almost 50%.
WHO is also part of a growing international effort to bring aid to India, as the country has been crippled by acute shortages of oxygen and medical equipment.
On Tuesday morning, a flight from the UK carrying vital medical supplies including ventilators landed in Delhi. Six oxygen containers were flown in from Dubai and in a phone conversation between the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, and the US president, Joe Biden, on Monday, Biden pledged “America’s steadfast support” to India by providing oxygen-related supplies and vaccine raw materials.
“Just as India sent assistance to the US as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, we are determined to help India in its time of need,” Biden wrote on Twitter.
In Delhi, smoke billowed from dozens of pyres lit inside a parking lot that has been turned into a makeshift crematorium.
“People are just dying, dying and dying,” Jitender Singh Shanty, who is coordinating the cremation of around 100 bodies a day at the site, told reporters.
“If we get more bodies then we will cremate them on the road. There is no more space here.”