India’s Covid-19 surge through the global lens

Here’s a look at how the unprecedented spread of Covid in India has been covered by international news media, and how they all point towards the Central government’s complacency

covid crisisImage: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters


The second surge of Coronavirus has brought with it news reports showcasing the bleak nationwide situation. From the shocking spike in the number of Covid-19 cases to the increasing number of deaths, the unavailability of beds, the lack of oxygen, and even bodies of the dead be piled upon one another waiting to get cremated, ground realities are turning darker by the minute and both, national and international news media have found it impossible to ignore the plight of Indians affected by the pandemic.

Tension is palpable even on social media, where resentment among the people is apparent as they see their fellow citizens, netizens or even friends or distant relatives narrate stories of scrambling for medical resources when the state’s unpreparedness and complacency became the cause for it.

As the body count keeps piling, international news media isn’t shying away from pointing to the many gatherings and congregations, the festivals celebrated with massive crowds and elections rallies being held in large numbers clearly demonstrating a government that failed its citizens.

Washington Post

This publication has never minced words while calling out the Modi government for a range of things ranging from targeting dissenters, to manipulating social media, to its general ineptitude to bringing about equitable development and economic growth. On Covid-19, the Washington Post in an opinion piece titled India’s sudden coronavirus wave is not a far-away problem, said, “Tens of thousands of spectators were allowed to fill stadiums for cricket matches; movie theaters were opened; and the government permitted enormous religious gatherings such as the Kumbh Mela, a festival in which millions of Hindus gathered to bathe in the river Ganges. Also, India went ahead with elections and rallies in four states and one union territory; crowds at election rallies have been ignoring guidelines. Lockdowns in major cities triggered another exodus of migrant laborers, crowding bus and railway stations, trying to return home and creating still more potential spread. The nation’s health-care system is in a state of collapse as hospitals are overwhelmed and oxygen supplies run short. India has fully vaccinated only 1.4 percent of its people; 8.3 percent have been partially vaccinated.”

The Economist

The latest issue of The Economist, one of the world’s most respected weekly magazines, that has even in the past not shied away from calling out the Modi regime for its crackdown on freedoms and people’s movements, has once again placed the blame on the Indian government’s distraction and complacency for amplifying the Covid surge which recently reached the daily case mark of 3.15 lakh, the highest ever for any country till date.

In an article titled India’s covid catastrophe the publication said that with its crowded cities and rickety health care, India is not an easy place to curb an infectious disease yet some states were successful at slowing the transmission and with low death rates.

“But through complacency and distraction, Mr Modi has allowed things to spiral out of control. In January he boasted, “We not only solved our problems but also helped the world fight the pandemic.” Yet in early March, as cases began ticking up in the opposition-run state of Maharashtra, his government, far from helping, attacked the state government in the hope of bringing it down,” said The Economist.

The article also points out Modi’s “unrelenting quest for partisan advantage” as he and his party leaders held countless huge rallies in West Bengal during a weeks-long campaign, without masks or any form of social distancing. This not only increased the risk of spreading the disease but also distracted the government from tackling the disease at the Centre. The Economist also says that India’s vaccine policy was “in shambles” and said, “By mid-February the government had ordered barely enough doses to protect 3% of the population.”

Until March, India was recording barely 13,000 new covid-19 cases a day, fewer than Germany or France and a drop in the ocean for a nation of 1.4bn. The caseload then began to tick gently upwards, until suddenly, late in March, it was rocketing. The article states that the second wave was inevitable but the government’s failures were not. It also pointed out the under reporting of cases as well as deaths. For instance, in mid-April Vadodara in Gujarat reported 7 deaths while the death count in two hospitals alone was more than 300. Thus, the daily death count of 2000 deaths is actually much higher.

The Economist further says, “The surging caseload has scattered many dominoes, including trust in Mr Modi’s government” while pointing towards the vaccination drive failing as orders were placed belatedly and gross miscalculations meant only 1.3% of Indian population was fully inoculated.

“Worse still was the government’s seeming indifference to the mounting tragedy. Even as the scale of India’s second wave grew obvious, Mr Modi and his top ministers not only failed to block, but actually encouraged vast gatherings of unmasked people, both at their own giant election rallies and at the Kumbh Mela, a month-long Hindu festival that brings millions of pilgrims to a single small town on the Ganges,” it says.

Financial Times

The Financial Times in an article titled It is much worse this time: India’s devastating second wave put the onus squarely on the government for the state of affairs, saying, “The devastation has sparked outrage at the lack of preparation among officials who believed the worst of the pandemic was over.” This publication has also in the past carried pieces by known dissenters like writer and activist Arundhati Roy, who many Indian publications consider radio-active on account of their own allegiance to the regime.

The Times, UK

The Times carried a news report titled Modi flounders in India’s gigantic second wave, where it underscores how record levels of infection have put huge strain on the health service and highlighted the perils of complacency in the nationalist government. It once again blames Modi for publicly making statements like “In all directions I see huge crowds of people I have never seen such crowds at a rally,” thus encouraging people to congregate in large numbers as it suited his political agenda. Modi had made the remark during one of his rallies in West Bengal where his party is engaged in an electoral battle with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC).

NBC News

American news portal NBC News highlighted how Modi was being blamed for bungling India’s response to the Covid-19 crisis amid a devastating second wave of infections and about the #ResignModi hashtag that was trending on Twitter. It flagged the Kumbh and West Bengal election rallies saying, “As infections spiral, officials are allowing religious festivals and election rallies attended by thousands to continue.”

The Guardian

The Guardian highlighted how many believed that the country had defeated Covid-19 but now hospitals are facing oxygen supply shortage. In a piece titled The system has collapsed: India’s descent into Covid hell, it points to how hospitals are filled to capacity and this time it is predominantly the young getting admitted; in Delhi, 65% of cases are under 40 years of age.

“While the unprecedented spread of the virus has been partly blamed on a more contagious variant that has emerged in India, Modi’s government has also been accused of failures of political leadership from the top, with lax attitudes emulated by state and local leaders from all parties and even health officials across the country, which led many to falsely believe in recent months that India had defeated Covid,” says The Guardian. It also underscored how the elections in West Bengal spread out in 8 phases were not curbed even after infections continued to soar and three candidates across political parties lost their lives to Covid. It also mentions how Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh stand accused of covering up the true death toll from the Coronavirus, with the numbers of bodies stacking up in hospital morgues far outnumbering official fatality figures.


A Bloomberg article Modi Under Fire for Campaigning as India Reels From Virus Deaths quoted Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray saying that on April 17 he tried calling Modi to address shortages of oxygen and the drug Remdesivir — but was told the prime minister was too busy addressing rallies. “The growing gap between Modi’s optimism in fighting the virus and the reality on the ground is particularly evident in Delhi, one of the hardest hit places in India,” said Bloomberg.

The article also highlighted the plight of many Indians trying to find beds for their loved ones. “The calls for help on Twitter, echoed across the country, reflected the pain of well-to-do Indians who have usually been able to bypass the disarray of the public health system and pay for better care. Meanwhile, images and reports from government hospitals showed the fear and distress sweeping through the country’s lower-income families,” the article reads.



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