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The rise of infections in India rekindles the ghosts of the past

With the memory of the health crisis caused by the delta variant in 2021, India prepares for a possible avalanche of coronavirus infections due to the advancement of the Omicron variant and re-establishes restrictions in several of its huge cities.

The infections are far from the terrible data of the second quarter of last year, when thousands of people died every day and the holy city of Hinduism Varanasi kept burning funeral pyres at all hours for the mass cremation of the victims of the pandemic.

But the daily contagions they have tripled in two days this week, surpassing 90,000 in this country of 1,300 million people, which has set off the alarms of some experts about a future collapse of hospitals.

In the Delhi area, where the capital is located, a curfew over the weekend to ask people to stay home if they are not essential workers.

The same measure has been taken in the city of Bangalore, the country’s technological center. And in Bombay, the financial capital, the authorities introduced a night curfew.

“Even a small percentage of cases translates into a large number in absolute terms,” ​​Gautam Menon, a professor at Ashoka University who has worked on models of the spread of COVID-19, told AFP.

“This can potentially put our healthcare systems in distress at levels comparable or worse than in the second wave“from 2021.

Doctors and nurses, for now, are optimistic about the lower number of serious cases among admitted patients and the accumulated experience.

“Last year we did not know exactly what we were dealing with. I think now, mentally, it is a little better,” says a nurse at a Delhi hospital, who requested anonymity because she was not authorized to speak in public.

Suresh Kumar, director of the capital’s Lok Nayak Jai Prakash hospital, said the increase “it was not a cause for panic” though revenue has quadrupled to 20 from just a handful earlier in the week.

The prime minister’s government Narendra modi So far it has neglected the possibility of national lockdown introduced during last year’s catastrophic outbreak.

But local authorities are following this rapid increase in infections with concern and some of the largest urban centers were quick to reimpose restrictions.

The previous lockdowns were a severe blow to the Indian economy and some fear the financial impact of these new measures.

“I will be working only 15 days this month,” said Delhi resident Tumul Srivastava, whose office is subject to the 50% capacity limits imposed by the city. “My salary will be cut. All of this adds to my anxiety.”

India seems better prepared to deal with Omicron than it was with the emergence of the delta, when more than 200,000 people died in a matter of weeks.

At that time, hospitals ran out of oxygen and patients desperately searched for medicine. But in this time, health personnel have administered almost 1.5 billion doses of anticovid vaccines and government data shows that two-thirds of the population are fully vaccinated.

This immunization campaign, added to the strong spread of the delta variant in towns and cities during the previous wave, can help mitigate the impact of this new outbreak.

“Although we do not have data, this can give strong hybrid immunity against severe effects,” epidemiologist Bhramar Mukherjee of the University of Michigan told AFP.

Preliminary studies suggest that the Omicron variant has milder consequences among those infected despite its rapid spread.

But Mukherjee warns that an uncontrolled spread of the virus could present serious problems for India, although the balance of the pandemic is a fraction of what was seen the previous year.

With information from AFP

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