“We are welcoming more and more patients every day“Says Ishant Bindra, 28, a volunteer with the NGO Khalsa Help International in Ghaziabad, in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. A total of 201,187 people have died from the epidemic in the country, and 3,293 of them. 24 hours, according to the Ministry of Health, although many experts believe that the real toll is higher.
Delhi hospitals are overwhelmed
“We needed treatment but couldn’t find a place in Delhi hospitals“Himanshu Verma told AFP as his mother, Poonam, 58, was connected to an oxygen concentrator from this NGO created by a gurdwara – a Sikh temple – in Ghaziabad.
The fourth most bereaved country behind the United States, Brazil and Mexico, India again experienced an impressive new total of infections (350,000) for one day on Tuesday. The B.1.617, called “Indian variant” due to its first occurrence in India, has been detected in over 1,200 genome sequences in “at least 17 countries”, announced the World Health Organization (WHO).
Most samples “come from India, UK, USA and Singapore”, said the WHO in its weekly report on the pandemic. The variant has also been reported in several European countries (Belgium, Switzerland, Greece, Italy). “B.1.617 has a higher growth rate than other variants circulating in India, suggesting greater contagiousness”, according to the WHO. The crematoriums know no truce, their chimneys crack and the metal frames of the ovens melt under the intensity of the heat.
Border closures to India are increasing
The first shipment of British medical aid, including 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators, landed in Delhi on Tuesday. France, Canada, the United States and even Germany have announced that they will also provide aid to India.
A Covid patient breathes using oxygen provided by volunteers at a Sikh temple in Ghaziabad near New Delhi on April 26, 2021 (AFP – Sajjad HUSSAIN)
Around the world, the Indian variant raises questions. According to the WHO, it is not yet known whether “Reports of high mortality are due to the increased severity of the variant, the straining of the health system’s capacity due to the rapid increase in the number of cases, or both”. Air cuts with India are increasing. Australia decided on Tuesday to suspend flights from India while Canada, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and New Zealand have already suspended or restricted their flights.
Belgium has banned entry into its territory, directly or indirectly, to people who have stayed in India during the last 14 days, but also in Brazil and South Africa, where other variants are rife. The presence of the Indian variant worries in Europe at a time when the Old Continent is breathing a little better after long months of restrictions. On Wednesday, it is the turn of the Netherlands to lift its curfew and authorize the reopening of the terraces.
The epidemic is exploding poverty in Argentina
Vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks when they are outdoors, except in crowds. Their President Joe Biden on Tuesday evening greeted the “extraordinary progress”. In Mexico too, the epidemic is receding. In 14 weeks, the number of weekly deaths fell from 9,549 to 1,621, while the number of hospitalizations fell to 6,000 after peaking in January at 27,000.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador receives a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine on April 20, 2021 in Mexico City (AFP – PEDRO PARDO)
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, himself infected in February, hailed a “breath of fresh air”. It contrasts with that of other Latin American countries such as Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador or Argentina, still facing a strong wave of contamination. In Brazil, where the Russian vaccine Sputnik-V has not received approval from the health agency, a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the management of the coronavirus crisis by the Bolsonaro government began its work on Tuesday.
Argentines line up in front of a soup kitchen in La Matanza, a poor suburb of Buenos Aires on April 12, 2021 (AFP – Ronaldo SCHEMIDT)
In the suburbs of Buenos Aires, the epidemic is exploding poverty. Daisy Garcia, 26, served meals to some 80 people every day in a soup kitchen in La Matanza, a poor town in the Argentinian capital. Today, it distributes nearly 1,000 meals a day. “We never imagined it would come to this”, said the young woman. Poverty now affects 42% of the population (45 million inhabitants), under the combined effects of the deep economic crisis that has shaken the country for three years, and the pandemic. The milestone of one billion doses of Covid vaccines, administered in 207 countries or territories, was crossed this weekend, according to an AFP count.