A 'tsunami' of cases and a strict travel ban: What you need to know about India's COVID-19 crisis.

India continues to set global records for daily infections of COVID-19, as the country deals with a catastrophic new strain that is overwhelming their under-funded hospitals.

On Friday, the country registered 386,000 cases, bringing their total to over 18 million known infections since the pandemic began. India is now the global epicentre of the pandemic, which is waning in many other countries as vaccine roll-outs bring down the rate new infections.

India's death toll is over 200,000 people, growing by more than 2,000 every day. 

Here's what you need to know about India's 'tsunami-like' second wave, including what Australia is doing.

"It's a tsunami."

India's hospitals are buckling under the devastation of exponential new cases, forcing doctors to turn patients away. 

The critical issue is a severe lack of oxygen, which some hospitals have been begging for via social media.

One lawyer pleading with state and federal governments to intervene, says the new cases were like "a tsunami".

Crematoriums across Delhi have announced they are full and have asked grieving families to wait. Some families are being forced to keep dead bodies in their home, while they wait to find a crematorium. Across the country, mass cremations for victims of COVID-19 are now taking place. 

Multiple funeral pyres of those patients who died of COVID-19 are seen burning at a ground converted into a makeshift crematorium where mass cremation of COVID deaths were held on April 20, 2021 in New Delhi, India. Image: Getty. 


What went wrong?

Health experts said India became complacent in the winter, when new cases were running at about 10,000 a day and seemed to be under control, lifting restrictions that allowed for the resumption of big gatherings.

Others said it could also be a more dangerous variant of the virus coursing through the world's second-most populous country where people live in close proximity, often six to a room.

"While complacency in adhering to masks and physical distancing might have played a role, it seems increasingly likely that this second wave has been fuelled by a much more virulent strain," wrote Vikram Patel, Professor of Global Health at Harvard Medical School, in the Indian Express.

Experts say the only way India can turn the tide is to ramp up vaccinations and impose strict lockdowns in the so-called red zones of high infection. It has opened up the immunisation program to all adults but faces a shortage.

India is using the AstraZeneca shot and homegrown Covaxin to vaccinate their population of 1.3 billion. It has also approved Russia's Sputnik V and has urged Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson to provide them with vaccines.

Australia reduces flights and imposes hefty fines for Aussies returning home. 

Mark McGowan announced a three-day lockdown in Perth and Peel. Image: Getty. 


Last week, Western Australia's Perth and the Peel region entered a three-day lockdown after a man became infected with the Indian strain of the virus. 

The virus spread in the corridors of a quarantine hotel in Perth, infecting a man who was staying adjacent to an infected couple who had returned from India.

In response to the outbreak, Australia has paused all direct flights from India.

Health Minister Greg Hunt announced on Saturday that Aussies could face hefty fines and jail time if they breach the travel ban and return home from India.

Hunt said a "temporary pause" on travellers who have been in India within 14 days of their arrival date into Australia will come into effect on Monday.

Under the Biosecurity Act, the maximum penalty for breaching the ban is a five-year jail sentence or a $66,000 fine. According to the ABC, the strict travel restrictions will be reviewed on May 15.

"The government does not make these decisions lightly," Hunt said. 

"However, it is critical that the integrity of the Australian public health and quarantine systems is protected and the number of COVID-19 cases in quarantine facilities is reduced to a manageable level."

About 9,000 Australians are currently estimated to be in India.

If you’re in Australia, and would like to help India, here are just a few of the places you can donate to: 

  • Care India: This nonprofit organisation has 70 years' experience in providing relief to communities during disasters in India. They are currently working to provide PPE kits to existing care facilities in India and to set up temporary COVID hospitals. You can donate here
  • Ketto: This is a fundraising platform based in Mumbai, where a campaign is being promoted to get immediate access to oxygen concentrators across India. You can donate here
  • Youth Feed India and Helping Hands Charitable Trust: This fundraising platform is raising money to deliver rations to vulnerable residents of Mumbai. Their kits will feed a family of four for 15 days. Their aim is to ensure "no Mumbaikar goes to bed hungry". You can donate here

This article was originally published on April 25, 2021, and was updated on May 1, 2021.

Feature image: Getty.

 With AAP.