Coronavirus cases surge across India as seasonable heat persists
Multiple funeral pyres of victims of COVID-19 burn at a ground that has been converted into a crematorium for mass cremation in New Delhi, India, Saturday, April 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
As India continues to be engulfed by the world's worst coronavirus outbreak thanks to a "double mutant" variant of the virus, heat and the air quality over parts of the country may play a big factor in getting the crisis under control.
Coronavirus cases are surging across India as a second wave hits the country. On Monday, the country surpassed Mexico's, making it the country with the third-largest death toll during the pandemic.
Since April 21, at least 300,000 new cases of the virus have been reported each day, according to data from John Hopkins University.
On Friday, India set a new global record for the highest daily increase in cases after 386,452 cases were reported in a 24-hour period, according to CNBC. On Saturday, this record was broken again when 401,993 new cases were reported, Reuters reported.
Sunday marked the fourth consecutive day with deaths over 3,000 across the country. According to The Hill, Sunday's death toll of 3,689 is India's largest single-day total.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, India has confirmed nearly 20 million cases - a number likely to be surpassed early this week.
Healthcare workers are overwhelmed as hospitals have no open beds and oxygen supplies have run out. Desperate family members have posted messages on social media in hopes of finding open hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and critical medications for their loved ones, according to the Associated Press.
Relatives react to heat emitting from the multiple funeral pyres of COVID-19 victims at a crematorium in the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Thursday, April 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Amit Sharma)
The total number of deaths in India surpassed 200,000 on Wednesday as the devastating wave of cases continues to climb. Although the total number of deaths is believed to be higher as some deaths caused by the virus may not officially be reported, especially if they occur at homes in rural areas, the BBC said.
Crematoriums are working around the clock as deaths surge and funeral pyres have been set up in parking lots as families face long waits before their loved ones can receive funeral rites, the BBC added.
In Bengaluru, a hard-hit city located in southern India, people are panicking, a doctor told the BBC.
"We were not prepared for this second surge," the doctor said, adding that operations were well organized for the first wave. "This time there are more cases, it was more sudden, and the situation was not prepared for."
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According to the BBC, India has the world's biggest push for vaccines, but less than 10% of the population has received their initial dose so far. There are also concerns about being able to meet the demand of the population.
In addition to the surging pandemic, seasonably warm conditions could create complications.
High pressure situated over northern India has been promoting warm and dry conditions throughout the week. High temperatures from Punjab and northern Rajasthan to Bihar and parts of West Bengal have reached above 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit (38-43 degrees Celsius) in recent days.
A storm system that arrived over northern India over the weekend will continue to drift east over the region on Monday and Tuesday. While only light and spotty showers are expected from this feature, it can help to knock back afternoon temperatures by a couple of degrees early this week.
Temperatures can still climb above 100 F (38 C) each day, especially in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. Normal high temperatures in northern India during the end of April and beginning of May are around 100 F (38 C).
Residents across the region are urged to take precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses by remaining hydrated and taking breaks out of the sun. With hospitals struggling to keep up with coronavirus patients, anyone suffering from a heat-related illness may struggle to find proper treatment at already overwhelmed hospitals and clinics.
Health workers attend to COVID-19 patients at a makeshift hospital in New Delhi, India, Friday, April 30, 2021. Indian scientists appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to publicly release virus data that would allow them to save lives as coronavirus cases climbed again Friday, prompting the Army to open its hospitals in a desperate bid to control a massive humanitarian crisis. (AP Photo)
Additional precautions may need to be taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus if people are spending time indoors to escape the heat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is a higher risk for the virus to transmit in indoor spaces, where there can be less ventilation than outdoor spaces.
After over a year of gathering data around how this novel coronavirus spreads and who is most at risk of suffering from more severe symptoms, one environmental condition has emerged as a determining factor.
Poor air quality may explain why the disease has been more severe in some places than others, Ben Zaitchik, chair of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) task force, said in an earlier interview with AccuWeather.
A woman receives the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 at a hospital in Prayagraj, India. Saturday, May 1, 2021. In hopes of taming a monstrous spike in COVID-19 infections, India opened vaccinations to all adults Saturday, launching a huge inoculation effort that was sure to tax the limits of the federal government, the country's vaccine factories and the patience of its 1.4 billion people. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
Zaitchik called the lack of focus on air quality "really troubling" because of how important the component has shown to be in influencing the virus.
"When it comes to severity of the disease, from everything we've seen, air pollution is going to be much more predictive than anything having to do with meteorology," Zaitchik said.
As seasonably high temperatures continue across portions of India and the air remains largely stagnant, air quality is expected to deteriorate. The arrival of the Southwest monsoon will also bring some relief from the heat and hazardous air quality.
The approaching monsoon season can also be a factor in controlling the number of cases across India through the summer.
The Southwest monsoon is expected to kick off around June 1 in southern India and advance across the country at a largely steady pace. Rounds of flooding rainfall can impact the transport and distribution of the vaccines.
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