India is in the grip of a Covid-19 surge that has hit with more speed and ferocity than any seen before in the more than yearlong coronavirus pandemic. It has overwhelmed New Delhi’s chronically underfunded government hospitals and turned securing a private-hospital bed into a nearly impossible feat.
India’s surge came after loosening restrictions and public complacency set in, with highly contagious variants now spreading around the globe potentially serving as an accelerant. The outbreak threatens to extend the pandemic itself, driving world-wide numbers to new highs and creating an enormous viral pool that could become a breeding ground for new and potentially dangerous mutations.
“It is a major point of concern that more troublesome variants can emerge if left unchecked,” said Rakesh Mishra, director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, who works on genome sequencing of Covid-19 samples. “I don’t even want to imagine a more nasty variant.”
The U.K., South African and Brazilian variants have all been identified in India, as well as one first identified in India.
India’s coronavirus surge shows no signs of abating. The number of confirmed infections among its population of over 1.3 billion has continued to rise each day since India first recorded the highest ever number of cases—more than 314,000 infections—on Thursday. It was the world’s biggest ever single-day jump of new infections.