Back in January, it was the beginning of India’s vaccination drive. In Delhi, brightly coloured balloons hung over an archway to the hospital entrance.
On that day, there was a mood of celebration. The hospital’s medical director, Suresh Kumar, smiled from under his mask. It was a smile of relief – as he told me how wards which had been dedicated to coronavirus cases were now able to treat other, routine conditions.
Covid-19 cases were low, and many thought India was past the worst.
Months later, and that couldn’t be further from the distressing reality. Gone are the balloons and buoyancy – replaced instead by a sense of desperation.
Back then there were around 10,000-15,000 cases reported a day – with under 100 deaths. Now there are more than 300,000 daily cases, and more than 2,000 daily deaths.
Scrolling through my social media feeds I see message after message, written by families struggling to find beds for friends and relatives. Indian health experts I’ve talked to believe the numbers dying with, or because of, Covid are far higher than the official statistics.The pyres that burn through the night at some of the crematoriums are visual testament to this.
How did India get here? Many say it was a sense of complacency. Mass gatherings had taken place, with no social distancing and few people wearing masks.
In my circle of friends in Delhi, almost everyone now knows someone who’s lost a loved one to Covid-19.
A friend’s three-year old son has the virus – doctors say they’re seeing more younger patients this time round.
The joy of that January morning has now turned into sheer horror, which is unfolding across the country.
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India’s Covid crisis: Inside the world’s worst second wave – BBC News