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Second wave: India's corona tsunami is unchecked

Again and again people are turned away. The search then begins all over again, with the seriously ill relatives in tow, it goes to the next hospital and the next but one - always in the hope that there may be one last free bed there. But even those who have managed to find a place for people close to them in one of the completely overburdened Indian hospitals must continue to fear. Because a free bed does not mean that there is enough medical oxygen for the newly admitted corona patients. The exploding numbers of infections - a sad record was again set with 352,000 new cases within 24 hours on Monday - have also dried up the last reserves in the clinics.

What remains is self-help. Many Indians try to organize the urgently needed oxygen on their own via social media or a few specialized dealers. But here too, demand has long since exceeded supply. He receives 250 to 300 calls a day, says Anjan Prasad Majumdar, who sells containers for 115 breaths for seven to eleven euros in Calcutta. But he can only supply a fraction of the potential customers with his inventory.

Deceptive security

The second corona wave, which is currently causing the country to die more than 2500 people per day, comes as an unexpected shock for many of the 1.3 billion Indians. Because at the beginning of the year the euphoria still dominated. Many thought that the worst was over after a first wave last summer with up to 100,000 cases a day. Blood tests even suggested that a large part of the population has already developed antibodies against the virus and that India is well on the way towards herd immunity. As a result, normal life returned. More and more people stopped wearing masks, and the distance was kept less and less.

The big drivers of the second wave, however, are likely to have been numerous mass events. For weeks millions of Hindus bathed in the Ganges as part of a religious festival in order to get closer to a state of liberation in which the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth ends and all suffering ceases. There were also election campaign events with large crowds in the run-up to the local elections that are currently taking place. On Monday alone, 8.6 million eligible voters in West Bengal were asked to cast their votes.

Last but not least, virus mutations could also have played a role in the explosion in the number of infections. The Indian variant B.1.617, which has occasionally also been registered in European countries, is under observation by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the German Robert Koch Institute (RKI), there is still no clear evidence for a classification as "worrying". However, the variant carries two mutations on a surface protein that are known from other lines under observation and of which scientists fear that vaccinated and convalescent people may be less well protected from infection.

However, the central government has so far shied away from a renewed nationwide lockdown. Because Prime Minister Narendra Modi not only fears the massive economic consequences of such a step. A year ago, the nationwide lockdown had also resulted in the return of millions of migrant workers from the big cities to the villages for fear of starvation. They also carried the virus to the province with it. India is currently particularly hoping for help from abroad. Several countries, including the UK, the US and Germany, have also offered assistance. You now want to send ventilators, rapid tests and protective clothing. (rs)