India has become the global hotspot for the COVID-19 pandemic, counting the world’s highest numbers of daily new infections in recent days as it grapples with a second wave of the pandemic weeks after witnessing a dramatic decline. The impact of the swift surge in the virus, in the world’s biggest vaccine maker, will be felt far beyond its shores as India slows vaccine shipments to other countries.
Huge crowds, mostly without masks, have been jostling at massive political rallies being held in five states holding local elections. A month-long religious festival that sees hundreds congregate daily to take a dip in the river Ganges that Hindus consider holy is underway in the northern state of Uttarakhand. Weddings and family events have become bigger. Now, experts say the country is paying the price — the number of infections during this second wave has climbed far more swiftly than the first with daily cases topping the 100,000 mark for the first time.
India is unlikely to impose a national lockdown that extracted a huge economic cost, but worst affected areas in the country are reimposing restrictions. The western state of Maharashtra, the country’s most economically developed state, is the epicenter of the new wave reporting nearly 60% of the country’s cases. Its capital, Mumbai, reimposed a partial lockdown this week shutting down shops, restaurants and monuments and ordering a complete shutdown on weekends. The Indian capital, New Delhi has imposed a night curfew.