“Wait for #COVID19 to explode again- and blame the government, hospitals, country.” In the early hours of Tuesday, Delhi’s underground rail network put out alerts on Twitter about peak traffic and longer waits, responding to angry commuters angry about long queues. After a strict five-week lockdown in Delhi, authorities have fully reopened shops and malls and allowed restaurants to have 50% seating.
In India’s capital, Delhi, thousands of commuters crowded into underground train stations and shopping malls on Tuesday, prompting some doctors to warn it could lead to a resurgence in COVID-19 infections.
Major Indian cities have begun lifting strict lockdowns as the nationwide tally of new infections has dropped to its lowest level in more than two months. But disease experts and doctors have cautioned that a race towards resuming business as usual would compromise vaccination efforts as only about 5 percent of all 950 million eligible adults have been inoculated.
Doctors say Delhi’s near-complete re-opening is concerning. The city’s authorities have said they would reimpose strict curbs if cases rise. Thousands died in the capital in May, as oxygen supplies all but vanished and families pleaded on social media over scarce hospital beds.
At the height of the second wave in April and May, as many as 170,000 people died. The Delta variant, first identified in India, has accelerated infections. And worryingly, the virus has spread to India’s vast hinterland where two-thirds of the population lives and vaccinations have been even slower.
As restrictions are lifted in big cities, migrant workers have begun returning from the countryside. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was widely criticized for failing to call off the Kumbh – he only belatedly urged religious leaders to celebrate symbolically – and for addressing large rallies during state elections also in April.
“One in every 4 tests during Kumbh was found to be fake. That is from just 1 sample collection agency. 8 more to go.” Rijo M John, a professor at the Rajagiri College of Social Sciences in the southern city of Kochi, said on Twitter. “Basically, just the tip of the iceberg.”
People paid 20 times the usual price to secure ambulances and hearses, many died in parking lots, and morgues ran out of space. “Unfortunately, citizens equate the government’s response to reopening, as a victory,” Dr Vishal Rao, a member of the expert committee on Karnataka’s COVID task force, told Reuters.