India's COVID surge unfolds in more grim chapters

Floating flowers in Ganges River
Floating flowers in Ganges River

Jedraszak / iStock

India's tragic COVID surge is showing no let-up, as daily cases stay above the 300,000 mark with more grim examples of people's desperation, including scores of bodies turning up in some of the country's rivers.

Increases elsewhere in Asia are also raising concerns, even in Taiwan, which has been widely praised for keeping cases and deaths at extremely low levels.

Bodies turn up in rivers

After 4 days of daily cases above 400,000, India's daily totals have dropped slightly, but the virus is now spreading to more rural areas amid continued grim reports from the pandemic's worst surge. Global health officials have said they believe India's officials figures are a vast undercount of its disease burden.

Overburdened crematories and high-priced services are driving some poorer people to dispose of their loved one's bodies in rivers, including the sacred Ganges, medical workers told the New York Times.

Meanwhile, India's doctors are urging people not to cover their bodies with cow dung, a practice that some believe will boost immunity to the virus or help with illness recovery, according to Reuters. Doctors warned that there is no scientific evidence of effectiveness and that the practice could pose other disease risks.

The practice is tied to the Hindu belief that cows—thought to be sacred—are symbols of life and that cow dung and urine has therapeutic and antiseptic properties.

Other rises in Asia fuel concerns

In Japan, also battling a recent surge linked to more transmissible variants, the public is voicing discontent with the government's handling of the pandemic and whether the postponed Summer Olympics should proceed this summer in Tokyo, according to Reuters.

An upcoming visit from the head of the International Olympics Committee Thomas Bach has been postponed due to a state of emergency extension in Tokyo.

In Osaka prefecture, a growing number of people are dying from COVID at home, given the limited number of critical care beds, an expert from Osaka City University told Reuters.

Also, Taiwan raised its alert level and re-imposed distancing and mask rules after two new local clusters were found, according to the South China Morning Post. Officials also limited visits at hospitals and nursing homes for the next 4 weeks.

More global headlines

  • Though Africa's overall cases and deaths have decreased for the third week in a row, 11 countries are reporting increased cases, with South Africa and Uganda reporting the biggest rises, the WHO's African regional office said yesterday in its weekly outbreaks and health emergencies report. "The overwhelming increase in cases and deaths in India, and increases in other regions of the world, are clear signs that the pandemic is not yet over in African countries," the group said.

  • An official from France's health ministry said the country will donate more than 5% of its COVID vaccine supply to the WHO-led COVAX program.

  • Australia's Victoria state reported its first case in about 2 months, in a man who had recently traveled internationally and went through the quarantine process in South Australia state. He returned to Victoria on May 4, and his symptoms began on May 8. He tested positive for COVID-19 2 days later, and health officials are investigating how he was infected.

  • The global pandemic total today passed 159 million and is now at 159,172,466 cases, along with 3,308,698 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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